Let’s dispense with what you already know about the local world-beat quartet Brazilian Girls: Try Googling the lyrics to their song “Pussy” and you will almost certainly end up scandalized by promises of “horney girls,” “teenage girls masterbating,” and my personal fave, “hot actresses ass photo.” This is cutting-edge adventurism for people who used to get a kick out of using LexisNexis to find articles on the The. Additionally, none of the four is Brazilian and only one is of the feminine persuasion. (In other news, Big Head Todd and the Monsters are just three schlumpy jam-band guys, not werewolves or enormous lizards, and the Police weren’t cops. Also, They Might Be Giants are of average height.)
What you might not know about Brazilian Girls—singer Sabina Sciubba, keyboard-ist Didi Gutman, bassist Jesse Murphy, and drummer Aaron Johnston—is that they remember an age when acts like Deee-Lite and Pizzicato Five ruled the American hipster’s psyche, back before indie rock died and way before it was born again. On their self-titled debut the band swirl together juicy bits of whatever they hear wafting through the trendy neighborhoods they frequent: “Dance Till the Morning Sun” is anchored by a buzzy Wax Trax! bassline and threads polite G-funk keyb trills through a Masters at Work synth wash; “Don’t Stop” underpins a hopeful dream-pop vocal with nimble, broken-beat drum-machine pitter-patter; “Pussy” itself feeds a slack-jawed reggae groove through French house’s filter-disco effect.
At first blush the band’s privileged cross-pollinating calls up memories of heady late-’90s tech-bubble days and the callow cultural tourism that once sold a shitload of Bebel Gilberto CDs. But listen closer and you hear that they don’t sound overly impressed with their own style-mag heterogeneity; they rarely overstuff a track (especially at the expense of its forward motion), and Sciubba, who sings in five different languages throughout the album, never seems less enthused than she’d want us to be. The flip side of this sophisticated guilelessness, of course, is that Sciubba and her bandmates (who wear blindfolds in the album art) never seem terribly interested in the implications of their fusion. Like Deee-Lite and P5, they want to believe in the innocence of a global village, despite continued evidence of its infinite capacity for disappointment. As Americans (even hyphenated ones), insisting that groove resides only in the heart is an easy, unsatisfactory act. Sort of like masterbating.
Brazilian Girls play the Bowery Ballroom March 16.