Monday, June 10, 2013

Album Review: CSS - Planta. Here Comes the Summer!

Summer of 2013 starts here. The great survivors of a decade of hard partying have defied the odds and produced a lively, shimmering album, destined to drift out from apartment windows and traffic jams on a hot summer days.  Aaah, the Summer of 13, with Lovefoxx singing “Ooooh, what’s your name?” Those were the days.

Planta is the first album after the departure of the talented song writer Adriano Cintra. Rather than imploding in the wake of this, as CSS were fully expected to do, the girls grit their teeth and carried on, just as New Order, AC/DC and Pink Floyd did after their own personnel crises. And, like these illustrious predecessors, they have emerged stronger and more focused for it. At their recent gig in Hoxton, Lovefoxxx appeared on stage in a massive butterfly-like outfit - a symbol of the band’s pupation and transformation into the upbeat, creative group of Brazilian women you see today.

In the absence of Cintra, the band recognised that they needed a catalyst in the studio, and TV On The Radio's David Sitek stepped in and let the girls run riot in his LA house. The resulting album is fizzing with ideas, daring rhythms and unexpected melodic ventures. Photos of the band’s sojourn at chez Sitek show the fun being had there, and this infuses the record.

The songs are worth going through individually:  

Honey. A melodic opener which strong vocal, with unmistakable similarities to the hard beats of fellow crisis-survivors, New Order. Indeed, this number could easily have been written and sung by Bernard Sumner. “I wonder when I am going to see you again.”  Pure 80s Mancunian new dance, with a Brazilian twist – what’s not to like here?

Into the Sun. The sound of summer – a song about new beginnings. Highly emotional and optimistic, with an ecstatic chorus. This could be a massive single. It’s certainly a massive song.

Girlfriend. CSS suddenly and expectedly turn into the Beatles, with Lovefoxxx even managing a Lennon-esque rasp – and the melody is pure Rubber Soul. Again, however, a twist. The stately and rather stern chorus suddenly gives way to a whimsical female internal dialogue a la Molly Bloom. One of the strongest tracks on the album.

Dynamite, is just that . . . a musical explosion of bass and Lovefoxxx  in extremis. I saw this performed live in London, and it blew the roof off. An instant classic, with echoes of the Stranglers and Siouxsie.

Sweet starts off as another techno number, early Human League. As the pulsating introduction goes on you expect Phil Oakey to come in . . . What is even better, however, is how  Lovefoxxx addresses us with sober and grandiloquent vocals. Not the fluffy delivery of old, but a newly mature and serious tone. A grower.

Too Hot. Just to show Lovefoxxx’s versatility, we go straight into a sweet evocation of teenage longing. Luiza Sá's and Carolina Parra’s inventive guitar and bass add a hard edge to this song - the view from a single girl’s bedroom.

Teenage Tiger Cat is a burlesque, joyous disco-fuelled pop song, with great rhythm and unusual supporting vocals, before a roller coaster of a chorus. Actually, it would be the perfect track for a funfair. Disco meets high rides in the future video?  Strong, creative stuff.

Frankie Goes to North Hollywood, is total surprise – a lament for an absent friend, with inventive rhythms and sad, nostalgic vocals. I can’t help thinking that this could be a peace offering for Adriano Cintra. After all the laughing they must have done together, you’d think . . . Is it?

The Hangout is perhaps my favourite track on the whole album –  one of those songs that seems to have been around forever, hanging in the air; waiting for somebody to catch and record it. So simple and melodic, with reggae beats and yearning keyboards from Ana Rezende. I saw the girls play this at the NME acoustic session, and it was perfect. This is an eternal - a campfire song, where people smile and snuggle up. Yummie.

The final song, Faith in Love is a real departure for CSS. Serious and communicating feelings of longing, sadness - of dawn, of being alive. Not the kind of thing one expects from the band, as the song lacks the playfulness of their more popular numbers, but it demonstrates how far they have come - and the potential they have. CSS still have surprises in store.

Overall, this is a must buy album. CSS are the real deal – a creative, daring and passionate group of artists, second to none at the moment. Ana Rezende, Luiza Sá and Carolina Parra are skilful, playful musicians who lay down intoxicating soundscapes for Lovefoxxx’s melodic musings. Together they have gone through crisis, and emerged stronger, more confident, more compelling. With a full American tour starting this week, you would not bet against CSS going massive this Summer.

For a fan like me, that would be something of a pity, as I love their intimate, spontaneous gigs and the fact that they are just under the radar. Of course, that is purely selfish of me, and I wish them all the success in the world. Having gone through so much, they deserve it.

Summer 2013 is going to be a scorcher.

Rating: 10/10

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