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Mika Miko - We Be Xuxa

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Artist: Mika Miko

Album: We Be Xuxa

Label: Post Present Medium

Review date: May. 1, 2009


Mika Miko - "On The Rise" (We Be Xuxa)


Mika Miko is the mostly female mainstay of LA’s Smell Scene, a skittery, no-wave five-piece, whose jagged rhythms, blunt alto-chanted non sequiturs and staccato guitars recall late 1970s bands like Delta 5, Liliput and the Raincoats. There’s one male member now – new drummer Seth Dunham – but the energy is like an all-women’s dorm at 3 a.m., raunchy jokes, shrieks of laughter and late night snacking (the album features not one but two songs about wanting a “Turkey Sandwich”). Yet, while there’s no getting around the fact that Mika Miko is predominately female, they’ve got no interest in girl-band clichés. Mika Miko doesn’t really try to exploit its members’ sexuality, a la the Donnas or the Runaways. It doesn’t try to score ideological points, like Bikini Kill, Erase Errata or Sleater-Kinney. The message is matter of factly post-feminist: We’re girls. We’re in a band. Get over it.

We Be Xuxa is Mika Miko’s second full-length, following a string of CD-Rs, home tapes, singles and 2006’s C.Y.S.L.A.B.F.. It is, like its predecessor, brash, abrasive and insouciantly assured, its two singers Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill trading brittle chants and deadpan asides, its two guitarists – Clavin again, and Michelle Diane Suarez – at fractious, intersecting odds. Jessie Clavin puts a spasmodic exhilaration into the low-end, plotting big stutter-step bass lines that point as much to the B-52s as classic post-punk. There is lots of electrically charged space for the sound to rattle, a white noise static in between blurts of bass and cheerleader yells, clattering drums and start-stop lines of guitar.

“Turkey Sandwich,” turns out to be the album’s high point, both in its Ramones blare and in the sparser, scratchier “Turkey Barnyard Remix.” Either way, it’s a stripped down, dead-simple song about human appetites, not just literal hunger for turkey on rye, but also wanting to “be somebody.” At the same time, though, the song really is about a “turkey sandwich” and not wholly a metaphor. Here, as elsewhere, there may be subtext and hidden allusions but the important stuff is bouncing around on the surface.

Mika Miko occasionally open up their sound, turning the clipped, staccato rhythms of no wave into a reverb’d surf music. On “Totion,” they careen headlong through inter-layered yells and chants. “Beat the Rush,” a couple of tracks later is a tough-girl, leather jacket rocker, no irony at all in the scrubbed power chords. And with “Sex Jazz,” Thornhill hauls out the saxophone, blaring detuned Lora Logic wails and moans through late 1970s fractured dance beats.

A cover of “Sex,” a song written by the obscuro art punk amateurs the Urinals, draws a connection to old-style L.A. punk, a scene that died a decade or more before anyone in Mika Miko was born. (Smell scene curators No Age have also, ahem, dipped into the Urinals’ back catalogue with their cover of “Male Masturbation” last year.) It’s a good song, a fine fit for the group’s sped-up punk aesthetic. But nothing more. Despite the song’s name, it’s not some riot grrl manifesto or sexpot come on. It’s merely an oddball classic, written by one underrated L.A. band and performed by another.

By Jennifer Kelly

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