Cansei de Ser Sexy
urrently splashing up big waves in the global pop-whore community, Cansei de Ser Sexy (“Tired of Being Sexy”) are a São Paolo-based synthsome of five girls and one very lucky boy. Touring the US twice this year, first with Diplo and Bonde Do Role, then again with Ladytron, they’ve also acquired enough hipster cred to become Sub Pop’s first international signing. Pushing a modified stateside release of their previously import-only first album, they’ve puzzlingly re-christened themselves CSS (though it must be said they have an easy name to pronounce, even without a lick of Portuguese) and seem primed to win over audiences and break hearts with their viciously spunky brand of euphoric bitch-pop.
Before I address the unimpeachable wonder that is CSS, I do feel a need to mention that the Sub Pop re-release of the album (though few will have heard the original) strikes me as somewhat of an indie cop-out. The only new material here is “Patins,” which is the first song on the album (after jokey opener “CSS Suxxx”), and quite honestly it ain’t too hot—it sounds like a 1993 Sonic Youth side project and reduces the normally defiant vocalist Lovefoxxx to uncharacteristic whining. Worse still is the inexplicably-changed backing track to “Art Bitch,” which replaces the amphetamine electrochug of the original with jerky feedback-drenched rock, wasting the pithy charm of one of CSS’ best vocals.
Thankfully, the remainder of the album is mostly untampered with, though there are some slight line-up changes and none of the songs in Portuguese have made the cut, furthering the tarted-up-for-America feel. But what is here is priceless—imagine the coolest, sassiest girls from your high school strutting over ebullient disco-pop beats and you’ll be halfway there. Throw in some snappy social criticism (“Meeting Paris Hilton,” “Art Bitch”) and effervescent feminine joy (“Off the Hook,” “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex”), and then anchor it around two masterpieces of raised middle-finger synthpunk (“Fuckoff Is Not the Only Thing You Have to Show” and “This Month, Day 10”), and Cansei de Ser Sexy adds up to the most fun you’ll have this year while remaining vertical.
When CSS show their sweet side (“Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above,” “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex”), it like, totally seals the deal—all the pain and all the pleasure of the classic girl-group sound rewired to a naughties fusion of pop swagger and indie smarts. It’s like the Go-Go’s went synth after Beauty in the Beat, or Blondie had five Debbie Harrys instead of just one, or like Le Tigre actually were everything they just pretended to be—and it’s like none of these things. The internet-era cultural acuity atop the ramshackle musical pastiche of CSS is a foreign tender right now in jaded, jaded North America—it’s up to the Brits and the Brazilians and the Spanish and the Japanese to show us how to have a good time in the midst of utter chaos.
In short, it’s the coolest sound in pop music on the planet right now. Almost maddeningly exuberant without a trace of naiveté, CSS sound like they have more fun using the bathroom than most people do having sex. Their way with a pan-English phrase, forgive me, only adds to the excitement: “I never got this dumb before” and “I know how you doing by looking at your pants” might not be grammatically perfect, but they ring truer than a hundred heart-wrenched sentiments sung by a hundred earnest eyeliner emo bands.
In the end, the only hope for our world is that their alliance with Sub Pop underscores a much-needed tectonic shift in the independent music world—the new rhetoric will be one of looseness, energy, uncomplicated fun, seriously-needed femaleness, and a bit of much-deserved bile lobbed at both popular culture and the 90’s-bred insistence of being too cool for popular culture. Hey, if this is the future, count me in. And if it ain’t, then sign me up for the cult—long may the sweat from CSS’ gloriously unshaven armpits bathe me in an iridescent glow as I gyrate against the stage, shouting along. “Lick, lick, lick my art tit / Suck, suck, suck my art hole.”