Monday, 28 July 2008

Album Review: CSS - Donkey

When CSS burst on the scene in a flurry of sequins, feathers and dumb but cool-as-fuck lyrics, they were a beacon of play-school electro-pop fun in a sea of turgid indie and derivative nu-rave dirge. Since then, the super-sexy Brazilians have been touring relentlessly. It shows on second album Donkey, which sounds like a record made to fill contractual obligations rather than the dancefloor.

It's more calculated in its cool, less immediate, less joyous, less edgy and less memorable than it's predecessor. When I first saw CSS live I'd never even heard a single but left the venue singing their songs like I'd known them for years. After five full listens to Donkey I could barely hum a chorus. Therein lies the problem with this difficult second album. Donkey isn't bad, it's just not as good as you know they can be.

Opening track Jager Yoga bodes well. It's shouty, confrontational and fun, everything you want from Lovefoxxx and pals. From thereon in, however, it's a bumpier ride. Single Rat Is Dead (Rage) is a traditional indie track which, despite being quite sweet, lacks any real CSS chutzpa. Reggae All Night, Give Up and How I Became Paranoid are utterly forgettable. Left Behind is Off The Hook mark two, which along with the Madonna-alike Move and hypnotic Believe Achieve, is one of Donkey's better tracks.

There are glimpses of what made the Brazilian electro-poppers so good first time round. They've retained much of their delightful lyrical innocence. Unfortunately, when a line like 'I'm a black-eyed raccoon working from the moon' (Air Painter) is delivered in a too-cool-for-school drawl, it sounds contrived rather than cute. Slagging off this album feels like berating a group of teenage goths for taking themselves too seriously, however. You know deep down they want to enjoy themselves, but feel pressured into proving they've matured. Let's hope they grow out of this self-awareness soon. After all, what made CSS so ace in the first place was the fact they clearly didn't give a fuck.


Release date: 21/07/2008 Label: Sub Pop

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