Deep down, CocoRosie take pride in pissing people off. Why else paint on fake mustaches in your publicity photos? Why else draw humping unicorns on your album cover? Why else blend opera with reggae and musique concrete? Why else sing in a grating, faux-Icelandic coo? Ever since their debut full-length, 2004’s La maison de mon rêve, the Casady sisters have been on a quest—to craft the Citizen Kane of musical stupidity. Tales of a Grasswidow, their fifth LP, comes pretty damn close.
If you can’t stop fidgeting through “After the Afterlife,” there’s the door. It’s the quintessential CocoRosie moment, opening the album with a potpourri of bad ideas: dated electro-pop synth bubbles, distorted shrieks, the distant twinkling of what sounds like a broken musical box, unintelligible nonsense about “neon stars” and a venus fly-trap. Their auto-tuned Björk caricatures are not only an insult to Björk—but also to auto-tune and the human voice in general.
The rest of the album follows a similar trajectory. Fragile piano chords swoon in and out of focus, layered over dextrous beatboxing, fluttering acoustic loops and eerie vocal samples. Occasionally, the juxtapositions work wonders in a sound-collage sort of way: “Roots of My Hair” is a gorgeous lullaby fog of interweaving harmonies and harps; meanwhile, it’s easy to drift off in the luxurious layers of piano and spazzy beats of “Gravediggress.” Ahh, the frustration! There’s a genuinely evocative album buried under the obnoxiousness.
Where lyrics are concerned, it’s difficult to be concerned. On the grating, un-ending “Poison,” a lovely vocal turn from Antony Hegarty is eradicated by the line, “Watch out for the panthers, leaping from her Speed-O.” (Where’d this panther come from? Girls wear Speed-Os? Would this all sound better drunk?) “I don’t need no human friends,” the Casadys rap-sing over a blaring beatbox groove on “End of Time.” As usual, they don’t seem to be in the business of making any.