“Your mouth is stuck to a thousand fags,” cheerfully raps the one known as Lovefoxxx at the end of the one called “Jager Yoga.” And this is Cansei de Ser Sexy’s serious album. No, really—next song’s about spousal abuse. But fuck the heck, you guys: No one knows what to do with CSS. Not Sub Pop, not Apple, not proponents of, uh, “nu-rave.” I guess we’re supposed to dance, guiltily: “Let’s Reggae All Night” has a nice locked-in squelch to it, but I wish the line I heard as “let’s break the bed in half” wasn’t actually “break my back in half.” Which prompts the question: Does this band even get its own shtick? Why did they call the album Donkey? Why does “Reggae All Night’ have nothing to do with reggae? And why did they sandwich it between two Sleater-Kinney-style one-finger new-wave riffers?
“Life is just too serious,” complains the best song (“Give Up”), which makes me feel a pang of guilt. This is one of those unquantifiable litmus-test groups for sticks-in-the-mud, like the Go! Team, where you feel bad kicking dirt on some kid’s sand castle. However ill-conceived their tinny beats, swiped hooks—”Rat Is Dead (Rage)” grooves on a chuggy Hives riff—and questionable “fun” quotient, these dance-punk displacements here present a tuneful, synth-shined step up from their more annoyingly hit-or-miss debut (which began with a chant called “CSS Suxx”). But their newfound tastefulness comes at a cost: less personality, annoying or not. Where song titles once delivered concrete jokes (“Meeting Paris Hilton,” “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above”), sometimes in not-so-concrete English (“Fuck Off Is Not the Only Thing You Have to Show”), they now read like tracks from any generic-alt hangers-on: “Give Up,” “Left Behind,” “I Fly.”
Maybe they are generic-alt hangers-on. But their bid for a career is at least as good as, like, Santogold’s. “You’ve gotta get your move on”—who can argue with that? It’s called Donkey, eh? Just go with it.