Of all the bands to come out of the Los Angeles punk scene in the latter part of the decade, Mika Miko has always been the most likely to make a commercial breakthrough outside of their underage college dive bar following. The mostly female quintet’s second album proper is the imaginatively titled We Be Xuxa, rumoured but by no means confirmed to be named after Brazil’s foremost children’s musical entertainer, has been released to coincide with their biggest run of UK live shows to date and has all the hallmarks of a standard early punk release – a dozen tracks, most around two minutes in length (some don’t even make it that far), with a dense guitar and drum sound that makes the lyrics barely audible. It has all the polish of an album that was recorded live in one take but is actually the cleanest sounding of their ten releases to date, and therein lies part of its problem. Mika Miko aren’t the first band to suffer the fate of being unable to transfer their live sound onto a tangible record without compromising their basic selling point, the energy of their performance.
Mika Miko are undoubtedly derivative in terms of their basic sound and style, which does little to distinguish them other members of the West Coast punk clique, but We Be Xuxa is rescued by some truly standout and commercially viable tracks that veer towards uniqueness. The irrepressible ‘Turkey Sandwich’ is probably the most noteworthy, so much so that the band reprise it for the album’s grand finale, ‘Turkey Barnyard’. Mixing bizarre lyrical trade-offs between co-vocalists Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill with an up-tempo drive and hook, ‘Turkey Sandwich’ is a pleasing departure from the staple SoCal punk sound that has limited the potential audiences of similar bands working to the famous Smell Club ethos over the past few years. With its tasty beat, ‘Turkey Barnyard’ could even find itself being played on a commercially leaning indie radio station without the DJ being castrated by their producers as a result. It’s definitely the focal point of the album, and probably their live act too, and shows that Mika Miko can produce a clean and listenable sound when they want to.
Glimpses of originality can also be seen in the creative psychedelic punk fusion feel of ‘Totion’ and the experimental vibe and higher sound clarity of ‘Keep On Calling’ and ‘Sex Jazz’, the latter of which sees Thornhill torture a saxophone over a danceable – or at least moshable – beat that lasts a comparatively whopping three minutes. Elsewhere, ‘On The Rise’ is as melodic as the album gets and is another track with mainstream crossover potential, yet maintains the band’s customary blistering speed. Sadly, for an album that barely exceeds 20 minutes, We Be Xuxa contains more than its share of pointless filler tracks. They may be short in length but can quickly become very repetitive and irritating, while the minimalist production does little to improve the listener’s enjoyment.
Ultimately, while We Be Xuxa isn’t afraid to sweat for attention, it doesn’t often stretch for it. If you’re already a committed fan of this genre then you could do a lot worse than grab a copy and blast it as loud as you can to annoy the neighbours. Others may find it most useful as a primer for the forceful Mika Miko live experience rather than as a standalone listening pleasure.
UK release date: 04/05/09; www.myspace.com/mikamiko