Album Review: CSS – ‘Liberation’

Remember 2006, when CSS came, saw and conquered our parties? Well, sorry guys, but it ain’t 2006 anymore

It seems almost perverse to think that [a]CSS[/a] are celebrating their eighth birthday next month. The Brazilian quintet have always been music’s neon toddlers; they brought face paint, flowers, fun and a disco-funk-punk debut to a monochrome mid-noughties during their terrible twos, and anyone who made love while listening to ‘Cansei De Ser Sexy’ wished they could carry on like that forever.

They couldn’t, of course, and second album syndrome was near-life-threatening. If the music of the debut was hot, hot sex, ‘Donkey’ was more of a gruntfest. Stripped of wide-eyed wonder and puerile insouciance, it was the worse case of a band low on ideas sticking to a formula. It felt phoned in – long distance –perhaps because it was reportedly recorded while they travelled the globe.

In a way, [a]CSS[/a] wrote their own sell-by date. By tempting the world with a debut so smart and subversive, so unique and so CSS-esque, their only option, without a dramatic change of MO, was to churn out similar stuff. And so to their third, the curate’s omelette of ‘La Liberación’. The good news is there’s plenty of classic CSS. Opener ‘I Love You’ kicks out the cowbells within seconds, swinging galactic synths into view for a big pop/Eurotrance face-off. If that gets you running for the glitter, ‘City Grrrl’ will practically frogmarch you to the nearest dance party.

It’s a titanic track of juggernaut rave riffs, trumpet flourishes and overlapping vocal lines, one of which – “I wish I would dye my hair pink/Put on black lipstick/Because I don’t give a shit” – sees Lovefoxxx at her fresh-faced finest. [a]CSS[/a] may care deeply about every song (though it often doesn’t sound like it), but for the listener, a lot of the charm has worn off.

Take the title track, a pretty harmless punk stomp in Portuguese that’s so throwaway it leaves no trace. And while fans of the F-word will rejoice during closer ‘Fuck Everything’ and its we’re-so-young-and-we-don’t-care lyrics (“I’m so high/I’m gonna fuck it up… Even if the music sucks/Fuck everything”), the rest of us are left wondering why we should care.

Maybe during their teens they’ll evolve, Lovefoxxx will change her name back to Luisa and they’ll record a Tom Waits covers album. Until then, it looks like we’ll see facsimiles of the original template – if not carbon copies, then at least cascading style sheets – which will just about do. For now.

Tim Chester

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