Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot Brazilian Wax

CSS: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Bitch

Cansei de ser Sexy
(Sub Pop, 2006)

CSS are:
Lovefoxxx: vocals
Luisa da Silva e Sá: guitar, drums
Adriano Ferreira Cintra: drums, guitar, bass, keyboards
Ana Rezende: guitar
Carolina Parra: guitar, drums
Iracema Trevisan: bass (left CSS in April 2008)
also: Maria Helena Zerba (keyboards on "Art Bitch"), Clara Ribiero (vocals)

Thanks go to my co-worker Holly for inadvertently turning me on to this band. We've been doing inventory at the library where we work, weeding out CDs with low circulation, so in the course of checking our stock, Holly handed me this disc. Who or what is CSS, we wondered? The cover was non-descript and the song titles, while sometimes vulgar ("Art Bitch," "Fuckoff Is Not the Only Thing You Have To Show") gave no indication as to what type of music it was other than the generic "popular." So I checked it out and am glad I did, because I now love this band and have added this CD to my car's permanent play rotation!

"WE are CSS! Any questions?"

Turns out CSS is a Brazilian electro-rock band (one with an obvious debt to Daft Punk) from Sao Paolo whose initials do not stand for Cascading Style Sheets but, rather, "Cansei de ser Sexy" (literally "tired of being sexy" in Portuguese - reportedly inspired by a Beyonce interview in which she lamented the rigors of always having to be sexy). And the liner note photos of the band more than live up to the hype, as five out of six members are young, attractive "Girl from Ipanema" types. So yes, they are sexy in a Brazilian bikini wax way, but the CSS wax job truly burns - owww-ooooch! - with rock 'n' roll fervor. That's no doubt why Cansei de Ser Sexy won the 2007 PLUG Independent Music Award for Best Punk Album.

CSS go for the burn

There's also a dude in the band, Adriano Cintra, who I'm sure (being Brazilian) is also probably sexy, but doesn't do it for me like the ladies. But Cintro, a multi-instrumentalist/producer, is far from being CSS's token male member - he's actually the group's founder and chief songwriter.

The girls - and boy - of CSS

Though born in Brazil, lead singer Lovefoxxx (Luísa Hanae Matsushita) looks Asian and is of German, Portuguese and Japanese descent (as my girlfriend Amy is always reminding me, Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, with roughly 1.5 million nipo-brasileiros).

Lovefoxxx performs at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2011
(photo by Charlie Gallay/Getty Images North America)

She's a definite extrovert and apparently likes to body surf, as her performance at the recent Coachella Festival in Indo, California more than bears out, and she reminds me of Bjork in terms of vocal style and outlandish fashion sense (plus she seems more than a little crazy!).

Lovefoxxx surfs the crowd at Coachello Festival in Indio, CA
(photo by Charlie Gallay/Getty Images North America)

She's also very flexible (must do yoga?).

Lovefoxxx stretches the limits of stage performance
(photo by Charlie Gallay/Getty Images North America)

CSS: South America rocks South California at Coachella Festival
(photo by Charlie Gallay/Getty Images North America)

Guitarist Ana Rezende (shown below) is also a film director; she directed the band's "Off the Hook" video.

I think this is Ana, one of three or four CSS guitarists

CSS's sound has been called a "mishmash of '80s new wave, electronica, danceable beats, and cheeky lyrics" with "sounds like" comparisons made to Berlin, Blondie and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I also hear a sound compatible with fans of Metric, Hot Chip, Kraftwerk, Elastica and French electro-pop rockers Phoenix and Prototypes.

"We got your mishmash '80s pop right here, yo!"

Some Internet reviews allege that CSS are despised in their homeland, which is a shame - but then Brazilians can be overly critical and pretty unforgiving when it comes to national pride (just look at the "off with their heads!" reaction to their soccer team anytime they don't win the World Cup or Copa America).

"Bye-bye, Brazil: the world is calling!"

CSS got their biggest international boost when Apple featured their song "Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex" (sometimes referred to, in its PG-13 version, as "Music Is My Boyfriend") in this "iPod Touch ad:

The song had been used in a promotion for the competing Zune media player a year prior (talk about Free Market pop exposure!) Due to the song's exposure in the US, it hit #63 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the highest charting single by a Brazilian band. By March 2008, the music video for the song amassed over 112 million views on YouTube, making it the most-viewed video on the site at the time.

And yet, they didn't appear on the radar of this aging analog anachronist until routine CD weeding duty one day at the library (needless to say we didn't get rid of CSS!). And, unforgivably, I missed them when they played in my own Baltimore backyard: yes, CSS played the August 5, 2007 Virgin Festival at Pimlico Race Course (where they played five songs, including a cover of L7's "Pretend We're Dead")!

CSS pop Charm City's cherry at Virgin Festival 2007

And even more unforgivably, I missed them when they played here at Ram's Head Live this past May, where my friend Karen Wall got her picture taken with the gals!

CSS pose with Karen Wall after their Ram's Head Live show

Several songs by CSS have been featured in mainstream media: "Meeting Paris Hilton" was featured in the Latin American broadcast of The Simple Life, "Superafim" was used in the Brazilian version of the Big Brother reality show, and "Computer Heat" was used in the South American version of the game The Sims 2: Nightlife, including a version in Simlish. Their songs "Alala" and "Off The Hook" have also been featured in, respectively, the video game Forza Motorsport 2 and FIFA 08.

OK, here the track-by-track breakdown of the album with videos to watch/listen so that you too may discover the joys of CSS. They may be tired of being sexy, but that's the only thing that puckers them out, as they clearly have Red Bull energy for rock and roll.

1. "CSS Suxxx"

The title song of the 2005 CSS Suxxx EP

The CSS anthem (as well as the the name of their debut 2005 EP) consists of "CSS suxxx" being repeated 80 times, with a coda of "Quem te convidou? Quem te convidou?" - in English, roughly "Who asked you?" I think this is CSS's riposte to their detractors and it reminds me of my favorite Dutch group Gruppo Sportivo's song "Blah Blah Magazines" wherein they lament critics calling them a derivative cross between Abba and Blondie and whoever: "Yes it's true we steal every tralala we hear/Yes you're right we're like The Monkees: we've got no ideas of our own."

Watch CSS play "CSS Suxxx" for the first time on their last concert in Brazil before a 2006 world tour.

2. "Patins"

Lovefoxx penned the Elastica-ish "Patins" to describe her previous (sexy) relationship with CSS band leader Adriano Cintra. Patins is Portuguese for "roller skates." I guess she's saying, roll with it, like Oasis once sang. Or maybe it's a Brazilian take on the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster."

Watch/listen to "Patins."

Watch CSS play "Patins" live at Paredes de Coura 2007.

3. "Alala"

CSS "Alala" CD single (UK, 2006)

Sequenced right on the heels of "Patins" is yet another rollicking rocker that makes you wanna hit the dance floor with your roller skates on. Lyrically this popular CSS song and video is the equivalent of The Waitresses's teaser "I Know What Boys Like" ("You want but you can't have it"). The MeuKu reference is to the side DJ project of guitarists Ana Rezende and Luiza Sá.
Ah la la, Ah la la
Gimme Three wishes
I wanna be that
Dirtyfinger and his six bitches

Ah la la, Ah la la
More too
I wanna be in that crazy band or Meuku

Ah la la, Ah la la
Would you be kind
Gimme one little more
And I'll be superfine

Ah la la, Ah la la
You're so cool
Can I be your friend?
I'lldrive you till the end
Cuz you know but you don't wanna
Cuz you want but you can't have it
Cuz you know but you don't wanna
Cuz you want but you can't have it

Ah la la, Ah la la
I'm so
I bought that posh clothing
But it still looks ugly

Ah la la, Ah la la
Am I stupid?
I'm doing the talking
But I don't get nothing

Ah la la, Ah la la
Alguém me avisa
Quando é bom parar
Defazer a íntima

Ah la la, Ah la la
You're so cool
Can I be your friend?
I'll drive you till the end

Cuz you know but you don't wanna
Cuz you want but you can't have it
Cuz you know but you don't wanna
Cuz you want but you can't have it

Watch CSS's "Alala" music video.

In his blog post "Cansei De Ser Sexy and Joss Whedon's Firefly," Joseph Kugelmass writes:
The song, “Alala,” like the rest of the songs on their debut album, is a mixture of things that have nothing in common except their relationship to hipsterism, as adjudicated by white males. So, we have a pulsing “electroclash” beat, produced and programmed to sound either trashy or lackluster, depending on your point of view. We have a female lead singer who’s from Brazil, looks like an Asian doll, and sings through a vocoder with something resembling a German accent. It’s the grocery list approach: we’re reminded of the torrid, passionate tropics; of the fascination of the Asian woman; finally, of how we’ve been meaning to listen to more Kraftwerk. She appears to be saying things about glamour, by using words like “dirty” and “superfine” and “cool.” The other songs name check, among other things, the indie band Death From Above 1979, and Paris Hilton, who CSS don’t like. Isn’t that amazing? They’re just like you and me!

To which I say to Joe Kugelmass: Get over it bud. Chill out and have some fun - it's only rock 'n' roll! Or, in CSS-speak, is fuckoff the only thing you have to show?

4. "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above"

CSS "Love and Death" single (Sub Pop, 2004)

CSS "Love and Death" single (Sire, 2007)

I initially thought this song title was an inspired existential blast of poetic brilliance about la morte petite, but now I hear "Death from Above" isn't a reference to orgasm or ontological angst, but to a Canadian dance-noise-punk band I've never heard of, Death from Above 1979.

Death from Above 1979: Toronto's trunk-ated twosome

That's OK; I still like it a lot. In fact, the iPod Touch exposure may have broke CSS in the States, but this is the signature song they can hang their hat on. Way cool, way stylish, this is the song I'd play to introduce peeps to the band.

Watch CSS play "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death from Above."

Watch CSS play "Let's Make Love" on Live Jools Holland 2007.

5. "Art Bitch"

The song that begs the question: How does CSS really feel about artists? Is their response too subtle? (Um, I think not!)

Watch CSS play "Art Bitch" live at Paredes de Coura.

Listen to a non-LP version of "Art Bitch."

Lines like "Lick, lick, lick my art tit" and "Suck, suck, suck my art hole" tend to jump out at you. Is it too much to hope they'll someday sing this ditty outside MICA at a future Artscape festival? Just in case anybody's writing their thesis on this topic, here are the complete lyrics to "Art Bitch":
My art is called egocentric soft porno
Or maybe it's just narcisism
My one and only subject
Goes from something like anything but
Me ism

Wouldn't it be easier for Beardsley
He could drop the paintings
And photograph his penis
Or take pics of the chicks
Yeah, you know what I mean
Wouldn't it be easier for Escher
He could drop the match
And make it happen on his mattress
2 girls and a cam
3 girls and a cam
Put a dog there and you got polaroid scam

I ain't no art-ist
I am an art-bitch
I sell my panties to the men I eat
I have no port-fo-lii-o
Cuz I only show
Where there's free al-co-hol

I am so hardcore
I sell my crap and people ask for more
Call me re-vo-lu-tionaire
I poo on a plate and get it published on visionaire
What I do, it's called art-shit
And don't you dare make fun of me
Cuz everything I do was featured on the pages of I'd

I ain't no art-ist
I am an art-bitch
I sell my panties to the men I eat
I have no port-fo-lii-o
Cuz I only show
Where there's free al-co-hol

I ain't no art-ist
I am an art-bitch
I sell my paintings to the men I eat
I have no port-fo-lii-o
Cuz I only show
Where there's free al-co-hol

Lick lick lick my art-tit
Lick lick lick my art-tit
Suck suck suck my art-hole
Suck suck suck my art-hole

I ain't no art-ist
I am an art-bitch
I sell my panties to the men I eat
I have no port-fo-lee-o
Cuz I only show
Where there's free al-co-hol

6. "Fuckoff Is Not the Only Thing You Have to Show"

Show me what ya got!

"You wake up, you don't wanna live today/you make up, you wanna look good today/you break up, you feel like crashing down/you go to work, you wanna skip this feel like you wanna change your life today/you feel bad cuz you didn't make it yesterday/you fall back...fuck off is not the only thing you have to show, I know, I know"

Some days you just shoulda stayed in bed.

Watch CSS play "Fuckoff" live at NME.Com.

7. "Meeting Paris Hilton"

The Bitch said yeah!

"I went to the Bitch, the Bitch was hot/She came to me and said, 'Do you like the Bitch, bitch? I said back, 'I wanna take you home Bitch, cuz I wanna treat you good, Bitch/The Bitch said yeah, the Bitch said yeah..."

"Are we still listening to 'Art Bitch'?" Amy asked upon hearing this song for the first time. When I told her it was the Paris Hilton song, in which the salacious scion of the Hilton hotel empire is referred to only as "bitch," she replied, "Boy, they sure like to say 'bitch' a lot! I though they were still talking about the 'Art Bitch'!" Astute observation theres, Ames, as Lovefoxxx utters the B-word more times than De Niro drops the F-bomb in Raging Bull. And that's really saying something!

Watch CSS play "Meeting Paris Hilton" live in Sao Paolo.

8. "Off the Hook"

CSS "Off the Hook" single (Sire, 2006)

Not to be confused with the Rolling Stones song of the same name, though it covers the same subject matter in a way. Funny how today this expression means somebody or something is beyond compare, while in pre-cell phone days of yore, it was a term of irritaion. Mick got all pissy when he called his baby on the telephone, but "All I got was an engaged tone." His girl either didn't pay her bills or was yapping away incessantly to someone else - either way she cut herself off from the world. Likewise, Lovefoxxx laments the cut-off aloofness of people standing so still "people gonna think were statues," and being alone in a crowd. "The silence is disturbin' me. People talk talk but I can't hear. I'm off the hook."

Mick's a Stone alone, can't get no ringtone

Watch CSS play "Off the Hook."

The "Off the Hook" video above was directed by guitar player Ana Rezende and filmed at the home of band members Carolina Parra and Adriano Cintra, where CSS recorded most of their songs for this album.

9. "Alcohol"

CSS say "Saude!"

"Is this a dream? No! Am a mouse? Am I an elephant? And I had just sliced your tongue. Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee. Do you wanna drink some alcohol?"

CSS "Alcohol" promo single (Sub Pop, 2007)

Ah, the thought-provoking artist's muse, Alcohol. Something CSS are no doubt familiar with in the land of Carnival and caipirahas (Lovefoxxx admitted she used to hit the stage piss-drunk in the early days until she started watching sloppy live video playbacks on YouTube!). This one bops along with a Zydeco-friendly party-hardy beat. Good times, indeed. Apparently, CSS had a music video contest for this song, because I found a whole bunch of different videos in YouTube. These are some of my favorites.

Watch the animated CSS music video "Alcohol" (directed by Nicaroda).

Watch another video version of "Alcohol" with onscreen lyrics.

10. "Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex."

CSS split single (Lucky Egg, 2008)

"If music be the food of love, play on," said Shakespeare. CSS get a bit more specific and spell it out in three simple letters. The song that broke them in the States and, hence, the world. 'Nuff said?

Watch the official CSS music video for "Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex."

11. "This Month, Day 10"
"If someday we get to meet again in a car crash, plane wreck, terrorist attack or maybe next thursday nite/Don't bother saying hi, I'll be rude, I'll be rude, I'll rude (woo-hoo!) - but only with you, only with you"

In other words: It's over? This break-up song cuts to the chase, literally, with Lovefoxxx threatening to additionally break up her lover's face, arms, legs, and teeth. Subtlety ain't her thang. No wonder Pete Shelley lamented "don't wanna end up like no nine-day wonder" (Buzzcocks, "Love You More") - he knew the razor cuts on day 10.

Watch CSS play "This Month, Day 10."

More CSS videos:

Watch CSS play L7's "Pretend We're Dead."

Watch CSS interviewed about underwear and Brazil.

Watch CSS talk about fashion.

Watch CSS play "Move."

Watch CSS play "Left Behind."

Watch CSS play "Rat Is Dead (Rage)."

Related Links:
CSS on Flickr
CSS on
csstv Channel (YouTube)
danieldroot's CSS Channel (YouTube)

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