Donkey

CSS

Sub Pop / Warner Bros Records, 2008

http://www.csshurts.com/

REVIEW BY: Jono Russell

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/20/2008

CSS hit the jackpot that most indie outfits can only dream of: the international exposure that comes with being Steve Jobs’ latest tune of choice to flog iPods. As with any song featured in an Apple commercial, it reached a mainstream audience that it otherwise wouldn't have, bringing them a small taste of mainstream success.

A taste they liked, judging by their sophomore effort, Donkey. This is undoubtedly a much slicker, more accessible record than their debut, 2005’s Cansei De Ser Sexy, with no sign of the crudity ("Suck suck suck my art hole") or playfulness ("Do you wanna drink some alcohol?") that helped this six-then-five-then-six-again-piece find their way onto a desk in bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
Cupertino. But that's not necessarily a bad thing in itself, as any fans lost in the shift will undoubtedly be replaced.

But the shift to a much more refined sound means things seem far more generic. The first half of Donkey is influenced heavily by the alternative rock scene of the ‘80s and early ‘90's -- so much so that even the name of “Rat Is Dead (Rage)” is a reference to the Pixies (“Ed Is Dead”). By halfway through, there's a noticeable switch to the more natural fitting electro-pop genre, with attempts at creating the sorts of irresistible hooks we know these Brazilians are capable of.

Therein lies the frustration of Donkey. An admittedly catchy synth riff opens “Left Behind” -- presumably a Lovefoxxx kiss-off for an ex-lover -- but as she promises to "Jump on the table / And dance my ass off till I die," the listener doesn't feel particularly inspired to join -- or even believe her. Like in the relationship featured, the passion is gone and things are just not like they were. It's not quite as to the point as Lovefoxxx has reached with her lover, though: "1 million pounds won't be enough / To make me stare back at your face," she sings.

That's not to say there aren’t at least a couple of successes. “Move” ("You better get your move on / Or all the good ones will be gone) is one track that stuck long after the album finished, while “I Fly” and “How I Became Paranoid” tread new ground lyrically for a band previously only interested in calling Paris Hilton a "bitch" and comparing music to sex.

On a recent Never Mind The Buzzcocks episode in the United Kingdom, host Simon Amstell identified CSS as one of the "coolest" bands around but hastened to add that by the time that show was repeated on another channel years later, they'd be forgotten. Donkey suggests, unfortunately, he may be right. It is by no means a bad album; it's just not particularly memorable either.

Rating: B-

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© 2008 Jono Russell and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sub Pop / Warner Bros Records, and is used for informational purposes only.