Is Talk To La Bomb, the second album from New York quartet Brazilian Girls, the soundtrack to the end of the world, or the record that will ignite the planet's salvation? A polyglot of rhythms, sounds, and languages, their sophomore set throbs with the energy of a teeming mob. Those crowds might be the bejeweled revelers of carnival in Rio or frightened citizens filling Tokyo streets as Godzilla approaches. No matter. Talk To La Bomb distills that surging energy-of all those cultures, those moods-into a single, dynamic album.
These 12 new tracks bristle with immediacy, packing a sonic wallop that contrasts vividly with the group's sinewy, sexy 2005 self-titled debut. "We became a band by playing music in a lounge in New York," notes keyboard player Didi Gutman, "and that environment influenced the music on the first album." But as the accolades accrued internationally for Brazilian Girls, those impromptu Sunday night sessions at the intimate Nublu on Avenue C were replaced by extended tours, and the band found itself playing increasingly larger venues.
"Playing so many shows in front of different audiences definitely influenced the new material," admits singer Sabina Sciubba. "The music started to become more fierce. The approach was more aggressive. As a singer and a songwriter, I have always been mellow. Now, there was this unspoken feeling that we all wanted to push things further." To put it more succinctly, says Didi, "We wanted to rock the crowd."
From the fat, pulsating keyboards of the opener, "Jique," that shift in attitude is evident; Sabina spews a stream of consciousness lyric that incorporates English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish...often in the same sentence. "It's this crazy mix of language, kind of how my brain functions," admits Sabina. "It's very me." "Never Met A German" starts with spiky, two-note riffs, then builds to a furious martial maelstrom, with Sabina writhing like a butterfly on a pin, sputtering "I feel like I'm on fire." Even quieter numbers, like the seduction number "Rules of the Game," boast unexpected twists, like bassist Jesse Murphy and drummer Aaron Johnston's eerie, over-the-transom vocals at the opening of the cut. The skittish "Sexy Asshole" juxtaposes a surprisingly romantic lyric (albeit one rendered auf Deutsch) with a vulgar title, itself a Dada riff on a compliment from deejay Nic Harcourt that Brazilian Girls' music is "sexy as hell."
In light of its wealth of ideas, Talk To La Bomb becomes even more impressive when one discovers that the bulk of the material was composed as the band was recording. A feat of daring, perhaps, but one that suits the four disparate, energetic personalities that make up the band. "I'd much rather knock out an album like that, quickly, than over-think everything too much," concedes Aaron.
"A lot of the songs come out of an improvisatory, spontaneous mind set," concurs Jesse. "Making music without it having to be one specific, certain thing." The title cut, "Talk To The Bomb," is essentially a first take, with Jesse and Aaron laying down a slippery foundation of cymbal hits, snare rolls, and bass fillips, while Sabina affects a formal, stiff-upper-lip delivery atop their animated groove.
Working at the legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York, the band was joined once more by producer Mark Plati (David Bowie, The Cure, Deee-Lite). Although Plati also participated in making Brazilian Girls, this time his role was much larger. "This time, we brought him in from the very beginning. He was already involved as we were writing songs and doing pre-production," says Didi. "He helped us regulate decisions, just by being a fifth element, and providing an outside perspective."
The band also worked with Ric Ocasek of The Cars, who produced "Last Call," a dreamy number that winds enticingly through nighttime side streets. "Working with Ric was very cool," Jesse says excitedly. "It was good for the whole band to just let go of the reins for a second, and let somebody else do their thing. And his approach was very subtle. He didn't try to dominate us. He didn't have to: He's Ric Ocasek."
Talk To La Bomb is co-produced by the band and Plati and Ocasek. It was mixed by Tchad Blake and Rich Costey, primarily at Peter Gabriel's bucolic Real World Studios in England. Brazilian Girls are joined on the album by Clark Gayton (trombone, baritone, saxophone), Peck Almond (woodwinds), Ric Ocasek (guitar), Jorge Continentino (flutes, saxophone), James Zollar (flugelhorn, trumpet) and Mauro Refosco (percussion).
After checking out a few performances on YouTube this one left me slightly speechless. Here's the Brazilian Girls in full art-dance-rock mode with "Jique" from last year at Irving Plaza (back before it got a name change)....
Um yeah. I actually just got grabbed their self-titled album from a friend, though haven't given it a full listen yet. They seem like they could be a pretty fun, late-night party band (they've already done the late-night thing at Bonnaroo a few years back). Here's some shows to check out for yourself....
Brazilian Girls - 2007-03-24 - snoe.down 3 - Herb Brooks Arena - Olympic Center - Lake Placid, NY
Brazilian Girls - 2005-06-11 - The Other Tent - Bonnaroo - Manchester, TN
Check out this equally bizarre, but entertaining video for "Don't Stop" that includes Shriners, hots dogs and a monkey....
Here's their lone other video for "Jique" - which looks like it was shot in a dorm room....
For more on the Brazilian Girls head on over to their official website.