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CSS - Donkey

CSS, Donkey

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

CSS – the São Paulo sextet who made such a splash with their skewed blend of indie and dance debut Cansei Der Ser Sexy – return with their sophomore effort Donkey and attempt not to make asses of themselves.

In truth, there was never any danger of that and even at its most formulaic, the album offers plenty to get up and dance with. But anyone expecting another genre-defining collection of tracks had best think again.

Donkey is an assured return, with some fine moments, but it’s also an album that takes fewer risks. So, while really die-hard fans may lament the more coherent approach; newcomers running to jump on the CSS bandwagon will probably be perfectly happy.

Another disappointment is the way in which it becomes just the latest album to raid the ’80s for a lot of its inspiration. You wonder when it will end.

But let’s stick to the positives. When the album’s good, it’ll certainly get you moving and plant a smile on the face. Lead single – and album highlight – Left Behind is an exceptionally vibrant listen that drops a punchy synthesizer loop around some sexy lead vocals from Lovefoxxx. The sense of playfulness that so marked the CSS debut album is also evident in lyrics like “I’m gonna jump onto the tables and dance my ass off til I die” and earlier “gonna get some fun back and drink til I pass out”.

Strong, too, is Beautiful Song, which thrives on its blend of jerky vocals and lush central guitar riffs, while there’s a nice punk-rock vibe attached to the gritty guitar work on How I Became Paranoid.

There’s even a kitsch fun surrounding the cheesy ’80s electronica of Move, which really has no right to work as endearingly as it does. Perhaps it’s the momentum they’ve gained from the middle section of the album, but it’s a fun, campy single that’s well-served by a catchy chorus.

If certain other tracks fail to shine as brightly (I Fly and Reggae All Night emerge as prime examples of pedestrian movers that are inhibited by the ’80s fixation), the album still remains busy enough to remain a worthwhile listen. But there’s also a very keen sense that CSS will have to raise their game on a third LP to avoid falling behind acts like MGMT who seem to be visiting similar territory with much more invention.

Download picks: Left Behind, Beautiful Song, How I Became Paranoid, Give Up, Move

Track listing:

  1. Jager Yoga
  2. Rat Is Dead (Rage)
  3. Let’s Reggae All Night
  4. Give Up
  5. Left Behind
  6. Beautiful Song
  7. How I Became Paranoid
  8. Move
  9. I Fly
  10. Believe Achieve
  11. Air Painter