CSS (an abreivation for Cansei de Ser Sexy, or “Got Tired of Being Sexy”) is a Brazilian band with an identity crisis. It’s true that all burgeoning artists emulate others as a part of their artistic maturation, but it’s unfortunate, given all the fully developed musical talents in the world, that CSS was given the job while they were still in a stage of musical adolescence. Sub Pop signed them in 2006, and La Liberación is their third album.
It’s not that CSS has absolutely nothing going for them, they are culling from a variety good of sources; reggae, psychedelic rock, and even punk influences can be identified by taking a brief glance over the album’s track titles. The problem is purely one of application. The song “Ruby Eyes” references weed smoking and hippie chicks, but fails to pay successful musical homage to the psychedelic movement that inspired it, and this holds true throughout the album, suggesting that CSS only possesses a superficial understanding of the music they claim inspires them.
Lovefoxxx, the band’s lead singer, has certain moments of overproduced glory, as in the album’s opening track, “I Love You,” where she sounds like she’s singing into a box-fan, but once that effect is removed her voice becomes so crystal clear and saccharine that she could easily be singing “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world.”
The problem with giving a soap-box to someone at such an early stage is that what they have to say often ends-up sounding trite and shallow. On the track “City Grrrl,” Lovefoxxx whines that she wants to live in the big city, and “pay my bills with the money I make.” These suburban 14-year-old sentiments might appeal to the demographic of rave-kids that have given CSS their popularity (the band is apparently credited with helping to kick-start the New Rave movement), but again there’s a consistency issue. “City Grrrl” is not a track that ravers can dance to, and it’s ultimately a downer. As the story progresses, the narrator moves to the big city like she’s always dreamed only to find that she “can’t rule this place.”(Here, the sole opportunity for a more complex message is wasted). Now, most rave music contains vapid, sexually encouraging, ego-boosting sentiments, but what it often does it’s best to avoid (and rightly so) are exactly the kinds of buzz-killers that “City Grrrl” ends on.
By far the best track on the album, the titular La Liberación, is in Portuguese, and maybe this is the moment when CSS is finally being themselves, but I have to be honest: I think I only enjoyed it because I couldn’t understand a single word.