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Album Review: CSS – Planta

4 min read

Cansei de Ser Sexy – better known to the world as CSS – have appeared to have lurked under the radar as of late, which is an impressive feat, given their previously garish, neon-tinged attire when they burst into music press consciousness in the middle of the noughties. However, the crest of Nu-Rave has long since passed its rather fleeting heyday, and with scene contemporaries such as Klaxons, Test Icicles and Hadouken! having largely slid into obscurity, have CSS managed to survive the ghost of fickle musical trends?

CSSPlantaAlbumThe most immediate thing of note is the change in musical direction, especially compared to their début 2005 album, Cansei de Ser Sexy. The aforementioned album – which gained them attention through songs such as Alala and Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above – saw the band incorporate synths with indie pop elements, and when taking this into account, Planta can be considered a significant departure from the band’s roots. Album opener, Honey, only serves to reinforce this observation, and as the introductory track, almost appears to serve as a statement of intent. From the opening bars, Honey is strongly reminiscent of Ladytron’s Seventeen, though less sterile in contrast to how a lot of electronic music can be, with leading lady Lovefoxx declaring ‘You can turn me on and I would never turn on you’. Such forthright eroticism continues with later song Too Hot, where the singer declares ‘When you touch me so deep, I feel a fire all over me. It makes me burn like red hot chilli, like a snake I shed my skin’, and the song could easily belong to brash Swedish electronic outfit, Alice In Videoland. Prude, these songs are not, but then again, the band have never been known to be the shy and retiring type, with former singles including Fuck Off is Not the Only Thing You Have to Show.

As may be evident by now, if the lyrics appear a tad clunky at times, it is because English is not the first language of the band. As Brazilians, CSS often incorporate both English and Portuguese in their songs, with the lexical constrictions of the former often causing many grammatical errors or odd metaphors within the songs on Planta. One such lyric, also plucked from Too Hot, is ‘Your hair is like a lion glowing with delight’, and whilst such inaccuracies by no means hinder the enjoyment of the song, they are enough to raise some quizzical eyebrows in regards to the message – if there is one – that the band are trying to get across.

Indeed, the album is enjoyable; the change in direction certainly strikes a pang of novelty within the listener; at times, it is almost as if the band are seeking to blend their various influences in regards to genre with an almost futuristic electronic element. Synthesisers are, of course, the main weapon of choice here, but they do manage to create some interesting sounds and atmospheres, for example. Dynamite carries a neo-punk energy that, when laden with laser-beam synths, would easily be at home as the soundtrack to a cartoon space adventure. The intro of Sweet buzzes and bubbles, whilst Girlfriend carries a disjointed Hawaiian vibe – a warped, futuristic Bikini Bottom at which Daft Punk DJ every night, if you will – however, recently revealed single Hangover. Co-written by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, the combination of both he and CSS leads the track into realms of reggae laced with electronica, which may sound odd, yet it is an experiment which manages to work surprisingly well.

Now being four albums into their career, CSS – which is abbreviation for the Portuguese translation of the Beyonce quote ‘I [got] tired of being sexy’ – find themselves in the dedicated process of honing their sound, not just for their fans or the casual listener, but for their own satisfaction. Planta whilst at times flirting with the borderline repetitive, has some surprisingly interesting songs, however perhaps the most unexpected is the final track Faith In Love which is slow and piano led, a nice respite of the summer party anthems before it, which sees Lovefoxxx singing ‘You gave me something so beautiful it makes me wanna run’ before flipping the narrative into ‘I have faith in love’, which proceeds into background vocals of a celestial male choir prior to culminating in fuzz and static. In regards to the original question, CSS have managed to shake the Nu-Rave tag as much as they can whilst still managing to maintain the characteristics that saw them championed by the music press in the first place, and Planta proves to be a fun yet rather mature effort from the band, and deserves to have a place in your soundtrack to your summer.

Buy ‘CSS – Planta’ from Amazon