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CSS sound as if they’re from an exhaustingly hip part of New York or London, not São Paulo. The sextet – five women and a man – play artfully unpolished electro-rock and sing in English. Their songs name-check Paris Hilton, a British style magazine and a Canadian indie band. Like some art school in-joke perpetrated by smug young people with ironic haircuts, they have the potential to be extremely irritating.
My reservations, however, melted away during their gig. CSS may have little in common musically with the land of salsa and bossa nova but they are traditionally Brazilian in one way: they know how to enjoy themselves.
With a single album to their name, Cansei de Ser Sexy (“tired of being sexy”, evidently a highly subversive sentiment in Brazil), their set was short and breathless. Although the sound quality was oddly puny at first, their songs soon gathered momentum. The music was a bustling mix of punk rock and bouncy synth-pop – hardly rocket science, but bubbly and full of life. The painstaking aura of cool that surrounds the band on paper disappeared in the flesh.
CSS temper their art-rock sensibility with an ear for pop hooks, which makes them enjoyably frivolous rather than icy and mannered. This urge to entertain is epitomised by their singer, Luísa Hanaê Matsushita. If the band resembled a less experimental Sonic Youth or a cuddlier Elastica, she came across like Patti Smith reborn as a children’s entertainer. A blur of playful energy, she was an irresistible frontwoman, stripping down to an aerobics-style bodysuit and combining unself-conscious dance moves with a singing style that switched from robotic intonations to wild yelps.
CSS’s vivacity has helped make them international indie-rock darlings. It is hard to see how they will progress: their music’s formula is too simple to bear much repetition. But for now they are a blast.