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Bonde do Role - With Lasers

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Artist: Bonde do Role

Album: With Lasers

Label: Domino

Review date: Jun. 1, 2007


I'm convinced that finding this album in my mailbox the same day Jerry Falwell died isn't a coincidence. It's a safe bet that whatever Bonde Do Role is saying it's in Brazilian Portuguese and I don't speak it would take the wind out of a broad swath of uninitiated listeners. The mythology behind the group and the closely-related baile funk movement is that it's dirty talk over stuttering bass beats, and they certainly wear their sass on their sleeve. Sure, their album With Lasers is many things, including art-school clever and gleefully anachronistic, but the first thing many will expect and, indeed, find, is the extent to which this Brazilian trio lives up to their roots in baile funk.

The subgenre somehow seems to have jumped to minor prominence on the coattails of M.I.A. her producer, beat ingenue Diplo (who signed the group to his label Mad Decent,) is a frequent visitor to Brazil, and has been as much an ambassador of baile funk as David Byrne once was with music of the Tropicalia movement. Baile funk, anyhow, is a minor genre that revolves around a sound system ethic, trading dub plates for Miami booty bass cuts, a wide, weird salad of poppy guitar loops and slices, and almost criminally juvenile rhymes about sex at its nastiest, filthiest best. A perusal of any available information about Bonde Do Role will reveal that they play the potty-mouth game as well as anyone calling baile funk their musical home: I was at a party / And I saw a whore / I put my tongue into her asshole / And my tongue came out all dirty." That's the lyric that was featured in the blurb about the band in Rolling Stone. Apparently, that was the line they could translate.

Translation aside, though, the persistent panting, whining, straining that seem to accompany just about every beat say enough without being intelligible... the band is either trying to make listeners blush or has quite possibly stumbled upon the world's largest stash of spanish fly. To hear Marina, the group's prominent MC and only female member, chart out her own get-off-edness over Miami bass and the decidedly Nortec tuba sample in "Marina Gasolina," is a refreshing substitute for Luke Skyywalker's gold-toothed misogyny. She moans, squeaks, and occasionally shrieks what often sound like demands and instructions, and remains at fever pitch throughout the better part of With Lasers. Her cohorts, MC Pedro and DJ Gorky, along with a list of undergroud DJ/producers including Diplo, rarely stray far from the formula of wikkity Miami bass and Bronx electro-funk, always careful to include overstuffed guitar samples that run the gamut from AC/DC to what even sounds like an old Ministry riff.

Bonde Do Role's occasional dalliances with other genres bear immediate satiric fruit, regardless of whatever they're saying. "Quero Te Amar," whether intentionally or not, closely recreates the mid-80s weekend hot-mix aesthetic so deftly mastered by Shannon ("Let The Music Play") and Expose (perhaps the first manufactured girl group of the post-Kraftwerk era?) with precision orchestra hits and phased vocals. It's what J-Lo would be doing if she were Jenny from the Favela.

What holds Bonde Do Role above mere genre-band status is their rampant silliness: kazoos and marching band combine in "Geremia" to create a few minutes of irresistibly martial funk. Apparently, James Bond has a gay love affair in another tune. Marina's only foray into English consists of the phrase "Afrika Bambaata" (the Bronx is in full effect when that group can get their minds off Magic Mike and Two Live Crew) and a curious threat that goes something like "Meet me after school / and I'll beat you like gorilla / Wheeee!" She somehow manages to make it sound incredibly nasty, enough that stodgy legislators of any country or stripe might consider raising the age of consent a few years past her 22.

By Andy Freivogel

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