CSS – Live At Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen, London

An exciting, unhinged, glorious mess...

From the soaring heights of Glastonbury to the back room of a bar and grill. It’s better than it sounds and as you step into the venue facing a sold-out room on a Monday night, there is a sense of something special afoot.

Supporting is the revently hyped Arlissa who meets expectations with a swell of emotion in her soaring vocals, bringing the unlikely pairing of R&B and alternative music somewhat closer together. But the main act for the night is Brazilian electro-indie outfit CSS, who have downsized their alcohol-fuelled festival antics through the 00s for a much smaller-scale teenies hangover. 

The packed-out crowd sees the band through some early sound issues, and by the time they hit ‘Music Is My Hot Hot Sex’ the venue is is buzzing like a speeding wasp.

"Welcome to our living room, the bathroom is just over there," says Lovefoxxx. This is just one of several displays of the singer's quirky humour, one of which is a real gem involving a snake with a mouthful of sand, met with what can generously be described as a mixed reaction. 

Through their three albums to date – a fourth, 'Planta', is forthcoming – CSS have realised material built for the live environment. ‘Let's Reggae All Night’ and ‘Hits Me Like A Rock’ are straight from the top drawer, both sounding as though they have had a prolonged subscription of steroids since being released from ‘Donkey’ and ‘La Liberación’ respectively. 

The biggest reception of the night is reserved for ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’, which retains all of the energy and excitement that it picked up after its release six years ago.

‘City Grrrl’ is a real Marmite song which could be accused of falling on the wrong side of the pop spectrum. It is the only weak point during this one-hour show, though. New single ‘Hangover’ is catchy and lighter than most of the material being played, particularly the tracks drawn from ‘Donkey’.

As the clock ticks towards curfew we have time for a rousing, frantic, shambolically brilliant ‘Art Bitch’ where Lovefoxxx screeches demonically: "I am so hardcore, I sound like crap but people ask for more!" This leaves just enough time for the unique experience of ‘I’ve Seen You Drunk Gurl’, where Luiza Sá takes joint vocal duties in a performance smashing together the worlds of Eminem and Girls Aloud to heavy irony.

The greatest joy comes from CSS’s shambolic, trashy performance. It’s great to see that, four albums in, they are still the exciting, unhinged, glorious mess we heard on their debut, despite the polishing process beginning to creep into recent records.

The craziness, quirkiness, filthiness and humanity they evoke on stage works especially well in an intimate setting. However, with the quality of songwriting on display and such a refreshing performance, you cannot help but feel they deserve a lot bigger and better than a Monday night in Hoxton.

Words: Bill Williams

Photos: Michael Parker

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