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CSS
Planta Rod Kitson , June 24th, 2013 07:47

Some will argue that CSS have had their time, and should do the honourable thing and hang up the catsuits for good. But conversely, they could be credited as the sole survivors (Jamie Righton's marriage to Keira Knightley, and Hadouken!'s reunion tour notwithstanding) of the ill-fated day-glo movement of the mid-00s. For CSS, it wasn't long before the serotonin-blitzed euphoria of nu-rave would give way to the tears and tantrums of an almighty comedown. In 2008, bassist Iracema Trevisan left the band, and the party was well and truly over by the time follow-up album Donkey was released later that year, stalling at a lowly No. 37 in the charts. The band's third record, La Liberación, a meandering, faux reggae concept album, fared worse, and founder member Adriano Cintra also departed. All of this might have led a less belligerent band to call it a day, but in mid-2013 CSS are still here.

The move to bring in Dave Sitek in to produce Planta was a shrewd one, and the record is the producer's best so far this year. The marriage is an obvious and easy one, with none of the stylistic contrast you might find on, say, the Beady Eye album. Sitek's stock-in-trade is quirky, electro-tinged pop, and this effort is more focused and confident as a result. The treatment of Lovefoxxx's voice is lustrous - the best she's ever sounded. The English-as-a-second-language conundrum can count against singers, but the CSS frontwoman hones it to her advantage, using phonetics to create the shape of sounds rather than forcing square pretensions into round rhythms. There's an interchange of languages in lead single 'Hangover', as Lovefoxxx flits between French, Portuguese and English, to conclude with the charming, albeit childlike refrain, "Never had a hangover 'til you".

'Into The Sun' showcases the sparse beauty that can come from Sitek's light touch, building tension but never at the expense of soul. The outro doffs its cap to Paul Oakenfold's trippy production on Happy Mondays' Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches, with an undercurrent of vitriol from the singer which Shaun Ryder would no doubt approve: "Starting a new day, I'm looking forward, fuck everyone."

Planta also proves that CSS are no worse off without the hand of Cintra. The tracks crackle and shimmer with an abandon not heard since their debut. 'Girlfriend''s slow burn is reminiscent of Goldfrapp and Everything But The Girl, while 'Dynamite''s short fuse revels in an urgent fuzz bass before dropping out to reveal an acoustic guitar.

The layered percussion of 'Too Hot' segues into the climax of the album – a quartet of songs that begins with 'Teenage Tiger Cat'. The main lyric plays off signature backing from Sitek, (the vocoder recalling TV On The Radio in their prime), in a banger that would have once made it as a club hit, while the glib title of 'Frankie Goes To North Hollywood' belies a musical and lyrical dexterity that could grace a Damon Albarn side project. Referencing other artists was a trick that worked back in 2006 with 'Let's Make Love & Listen To Death From Above', and though in awe of an earlier epoch here, it's equally effective: this time it's not getting jiggy on the back of a hyped noisy duo, but poking holes in the loneliess of ambition amid the plasticity of California. "Getting weed from your father's fridge, watching bad TV, Frankie when you coming home?" croons the singer.

The most compelling argument of all comes in the album's final flourish, the piano-driven 'Faith In Love'. Gone are the beats in favour of an atmospheric paean that builds to a reverb-drenched crescendo. Planta ends on a real high, then, and for impatient listeners that could be a clincher. Bizarrely in this ADD age, the album suffers from back-loading, and its slightly weaker opening doesn't hint at the hidden depths within.

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