Typically, the term Eurotrash evokes images of tight pleather pants, bad blonde dye jobs, and lots and lots of cigarettes. As a musical genre, Eurotrash finds a new spokes-band in the Brazilian Girls, a new Manhattan-based group who are, ironically enough, neither Brazilian nor all girls. Their geographical roots are as diverse as their club-chic music: a lead singer from Italy, bassist from California, keyboardist from Argentina, and drummer from Kansas. Yet on their self-titled debut album, they embrace the fun, experimental, and over-the-top style that has come to define Eurotechno (AKA Eurotrash) to most American ears. Just consider it in the vein of European exports like gelato, the Mini Cooper, and Orangina: you don’t love it, but it’s way too cute to hate.
The Brazilian Girls’ main knack is more for creating gorgeous musical illusions than for actually composing good songs. Unfortunately, that illusion wears thin at the album’s weakest moments, where repetition gets a bit annoying. The album opens with the orchestral “Homme,” sung entirely in come-hither French by frontwoman Sabina Scuibba. The Girls manages to blend fabulously pretentious violin flourishes with a bouncy, R&B bassline and what actually sounds like an echoing harmonica. The only other band who could pull off such a decadent, drippingly moody pop song is Air (who happens to be, of course, French). The Henry Mancini-esque “Long” starts out sounding more “Girl From Ipanema” than Brazil itself, yet quickly morphs from beach-bum chimes and Pina Colada piano riffs to an uptempo full-moon rave track. Indeed, many songs set up expectations, only to subvert them with all the style and grace of a Brigitte Bardot film.
Scuibba’s talent for singing in multiple languages — besides French and English, she also tackles Italian, Spanish, and German — showcases her ability to fill the album’s entire libretto with relatively meaningless verse. If her English songs are any indication, her lyrics are tiny masterpieces of glib, dry, apathetic fluff. Not surprisingly, on “Dance ‘Till the Morning Sun,” she doesn’t stray too far from the subject matter of the title, filling over four minutes with little more than droll repetition (an afterthought to, say, doing her nails and eating croissants.) But watch out, because it’s precisely her dispassion that draws you in — we all know she’s oh-so-sexy, why have to shout and scream about it? Her indifference becomes a kind of trademark, that special something that endears us to her. It’s risky, but it works.
It’s especially fun when she lends her unique ennui to some of the more musically out-there songs, and the result is inevitably bold and irresistibly cheeky. “Pu**y,” the album’s best track, layers ska-style trumpets over an exotic Indian drum beat. The outcome is Venice Beach meets Paris disco, in the best possible sense. Scuibba’s amusing vocal style lends appropriate sass to the mix: though she eventually gets around to actual verses, she knows no one’s going to listen to them (especially since her chorus boomingly repeats the song’s title, adding the exclamation “marijuana!” for good measure). If that’s not destined to become a West Coast Gen-Y anthem, I don’t know what is.
“Lazy Lover,” the first single, is a suave, James Bond-ish number that wafts an ethereal harp against delicate chimes and earthy guitar licks. Like many of the album’s songs, this one ends quite differently than it begins, picking up speed and utilizing some cute auditory tricks, like a little snippet of what sounds like Scuibba’s telephone conversation in Italian. Her singing is as lazy as the song’s titular lover, but lends itself to the track’s tropical-island ambiance. “Lazy lover/ Casanova/ Why bother/ There’s so much love,” she croons languidly, as though steaming in a sauna. Once the eerie bleeps and X-Files-inspired whistles start in, though, it’s clear the song itself has one-upped any sensual pleasure Scuibba can impart. The music takes on a life of its own, reveling in its own strangeness. But “Lazy Lover” takes its time in building an ambient mood and rich texture, rather than diving right into the relentless sonic slaughter that defines most pop-techno.
Other highlights are “Me Gustas Cuando Callas,” a track that thumps with the laid-back atmosphere of Blackalicious or Manu Chao. The album’s dreamy closer, “Ships in the Night,” is a quiet lullaby that sounds like Billie Holiday remixed by the Flaming Lips.
There’s something about the Brazilian Girls that gives the sense that they are wholeheartedly in love with their music. Yet the album’s sense of snobbery is by no means out of place, and it grants the same type of naughty charm that loads of sugar and Mascarpone give a good Tiramisu. And the Brazilian Girls, with all their flashy falsettos and perfunctory passion, have nailed the Eurotrash style down to a T. Finally, Ibiza club kids, Manhattan hipsters, and Koh Samui rave fiends have a band to call their own.