Only a foursome of headstrong and (thankfully) talented musicians from New York City could name their band Brazilian Girls and get away with it. So forget for a moment that the closest any of them come to being from Brazil is lead singer Sabina Sciubba, who originates from Rome, which come to think of it, is nowhere near Brazil (but it still sounds exotic, doesn’t it?). All you need to consider, really, is that they combine genres as far ranging as dub, electro, dance, pop and rock music into a deliciously eclectic stew of hip-shaking beats. Riding the crest of last year’s critically acclaimed self-titled debut, Brazilian Girls are back with another slew of dance tracks on their new album, Talk To La Bomb.
Nationalities and gender aside, however, Brazilian Girls have obviously been influenced musically by the country from which they take their name. The sexy bossa nova tones of Bebel Gilberto shine through on some of the more upbeat numbers, and hue the album with a thousand shades of Technicolor brighter than any discothèque and for as many miles away (not to mention decades). Talk To La Bomb also recalls the rather glitzy debut from CSS, a band actually composed of girls from Brazil (and one dude). Ever the glamorous chanteuse that she is, Sciubba proves her seductive vocals are rivaled only by her obstinate sense of fashion (Thank God she’s not tired of being sexy!). The result is a mélange of impossible- not-to-smile-at tunes designed to make you dance.
But where Brazilian Girls opted for genre bending, multilingual excursions into the farthest reaches of what can still be called pop music, Talk To La Bomb tends to play things a little safer. Sciubba still sings in five different languages, and the rhythm is undeniably conducive to shakin’ it, but somewhere through the album you get the sense you’ve heard this formula before, namely in the band’s first outing. The innovation that distinguished Brazilian Girls and caused critics to collectively shout “Oui!” has essentially been repackaged and polished up for Talk To La Bomb. Which, for fans of Brazilian Girls, may not be a bad thing in itself. But for those of us who expect reinvention on every go-around (thanks for setting the bar so high, Radiohead!), then disappointment may linger.
The Ric Ocasek produced “Last Call” finds Sciubba at her most schizophrenic singing to date, switching languages throughout the song as the irresistible disco beat thrums along. “Jique” pulses with a menacing buzz while “Never Met A German” accelerates the band into political territory with a sadistically sarcastic bent. Paired with the title track, in which Sciubba remarks “Talk to the bomb/ It’s never been easy,” one gets the sense the band is as tired of unnecessary wars as the rest of us. The calming keyboard tinkling of “Sweatshop” cools things off with a gentle Sea and Cake-ish assortment of dripping synths.
Brazilian Girls have managed to overcome the sophomore slump, if not in a groundbreaking or earth shattering fashion, then at least in a consistent one. A subtle foray into the realm of social awareness in the lyrics department being the most remarkable sign of musical maturity for the band, and hopefully a taste of things to come in future releases. Maybe all the world really needs now is more politically minded dance music; it’s certainly a genre that only has room to grow.