To make a big thing out of Mika Miko’s We Be Xuxa would be beside the point. Of course, on a literal level, the album itself is a little thing: twelve shards of SoCal punk brevity. (Only one song goes substantially beyond two minutes — all the way to three minutes.) But more important, this album sloughs off sentimentality and keeps away any attempt at making it into anything more than what it is: spastic energy solidified into verse-chorus-verse form. How do they hold off our innate urge to make things more than they are? Through the classic postmodern techniques of quotation, irony, and telephonic distance.
This emphasis on quotation is one of the defining differences between Mika Miko and fellow neo-punkers like No Age, Abe Vigoda, or Jay Reatard. Unlike the art punk of No Age (I know: an inevitable comparison), which has a kind of sentimental core that makes them accessible to a wide audience (maybe even a kind of “next big thing”), Mika Miko refuse the kind of touchy-feely sentiment embodied best by the oceanic embrace of No Age’s noisescapes. Those smears of sound reconfigure the context of No Age’s punk blasts, making of them a stylistic technique (a la the omnivorous Sonic Youth), but Mika Miko simply replicate and repeat. We Be Xuxa is a blatant exercise in nostalgia that can seem at times like a dissertation in punk (from X-Ray Spex to SoCal sludge greats like The Germs). While there is a certain nerdy joy in parsing influence in all music, here it is a principle of creation — and a badge of community. Lead singer Jenna Thornhill sings out of a telephone, but we might say the band as whole is a kind of telephone, calling up blasts from the past for a modern audience.
Mika Miko’s stance of blank homage, however, does not make them irrelevant. In refusing to play the game of “make it new,” they say, in effect, it is what it is: i.e., friendly punk rock to jump around to. The anger and desperation of ye olden days have been smoothed away (even if the awkward sound mixing and ripping distortion is kept), and we are left with the best parts: the ecstatic energy release provided by intensity and noise. This is, of course, the music’s saving grace. While not as hybrid as Abe Vigoda nor as melodic as Jay Reatard, these women kick out a place in the musical universe through sheer, happy, blasting audacity.