If pressed to narrow down the single most obnoxious thing about modern music, the most unredeemable aural sin, I would point my finger squarely at the synthesizer. It is at the root of all callow, cold, emotionless, mechanical noise that has crept its way into nearly every genre; at this point, it qualifies as an infestation. But just like spiders, mice and other pests, they do have their purpose when filling their place. And, while I’m still not a fan, Brazil’s CSS (abbreviated from the Portuguese ‘tired of being sexy’) may quite well offer a great example of where the synth belongs (besides ‘the dumpster’!)
The band’s fourth release, but first since parting ways with sole male bandmate Adriano Cintra, Planta is a (mostly) trim, compact collection clocking in at just under 45 minutes. Lead track “Honey” is catchy as hell without ever becoming annoying. Lead vocalist, Lovefoxxx’s straightforward, slightly droll delivery perfectly accentuates the upbeat, danceable rhythm. Never for a second is the track taken completely seriously, either by the band or the listener, (the chorus, “you can’t turn me on / and I will never turn on you” highlights the lost-in-translation mild absurdity of the lyrics) but that’s the point. It is silly, it is absurd. “Honey” is the perfect soundtrack to a slushy spring snowboarding/skiing session in the terrain park. Just as “Into the Sun” suggests, the tunes are good times with friends in nice weather, carefree. What more can you ask from a song?
With the sole exception of “Teenage Tiger Cat” whose schoolyard chant cadence wears on the nerves extremely quickly, the band seems to sense jut how long it can support the humor before getting stale. However, like most electronic heavy bands, about half of Planta veers into techno/club territory. “Frankie Goes To North Hollywood” while a great title, is the most annoying example, but “Sweet” and “Teenage Tiger Cat” are almost as bad. Lead single, “Hangover,” as well as “Hangout,” “Too Hot” and “Faith In Love” introduce an inviting pop sensibility. “Faith” in particular is strong; while the vocals float breathily along, the plinking keyboard ensures the song, and record, stay firmly grounded. While the lyrics themselves might not make much sense, their delivery is exactly what the song ordered.
But beyond just the music, the cover artwork is incredible, deserving of just as much praise. Striking and unsettling, the four turban-headed CSS “spore” is at once familiar and foreign; just normal enough to keep your attention, just gruesome enough to make you look away.
When I say Planta is a listenable record, that is the highest complement I can bestow upon it. It did not covert me into an electronic-pop fan; I can’t imagine a time that I’d ever specifically want to spin it again, nor would I actively seek it out. I may even change the channel on the radio. However, if it were out of my control, I would have no problem hearing most of these tracks. And that, my friends, is more than I ever thought I would say about synth pop.