Brazilian electro-punk outfit Cansei de Ser Sexy, better known as CSS, gained recent success courtesy of its track “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” being featured in an iPod Touch ad last year. CSS has since become the highest charting Brazilian band on the Billboard Hot 100, an achievement that seems all the more unlikely coming from a band whose debut album thrived on self-deprecation (“CSS Suxxx”), referenced noise-rockers Death from Above 1979, and took riotous swipes at America’s most loathsome heiress on “Meeting Paris Hilton.” Their name hilariously translates to “tired of being sexy,” a direct quote from none other than uber-ego Beyonce.
Donkey, the Brazilian art-house brat pack’s sophomore album, is a startlingly fresh and well-paced collection of songs that feel like the perfect progression from their debut. To say the band has matured would be to do them a disservice; their roughneck aesthetic to making music (only one of six members is an experienced musician) and gleefully absurd, pop-culture referential lyrics are key elements to what make CSS so thrilling. In album opener “Jager Yoga,” they manage to name-check Brazilian soap star Claudia Ohana, Brit comedy Absolutely Fabulous, and even the Pope of Trash himself, John Waters (“Desperate Living, Hairspray/Baltimore with Tanqueray/Live your life John Waters’ way”), all with equal doses of panache and sass. And when not immersing their audience in seemingly random shreds of pop-culture ephemera, they’re aces at making the arbitrary seem meaningful (“If you are my friend, we can raise the Jamaican flag so we can reggae all night, yeah”).
Musically, these eleven tracks rely more on a post-punk aesthetic than their electro-inclined predecessor. Produced by CSS’s drummer/songwriter Adriano Cintra and mixed by Mark “Spike” Stent (whose own resume includes Madonna, MIA, and Arcade Fire), Donkey feels more guitar-happy and rock oriented than Cansei de Ser Sexy while still maintaining the boisterous frenzy of synths and programmed drums the sextet has become known for.
Single “Rat Is Dead” owes its sound as much to the Pixies as it does Cintra’s songwriting with its razor-sharp guitars veering dangerously throughout this merry tale of murder and empowerment. And on tracks like “How I Became Paranoid” and “Left Behind,” the band find the perfect fusion of raucous guitars and electric engineering, constructing a more cohesive sounding record overall.
With its shameless pop-punk anthems and wonderfully irreverent lyrics, Donkey finds Cthe members of SS at the top of their game.