“But the mind can’t comprehend what the heart understands/So smile, and just pretend/Just like when you were a boy,” sings San Diego tropical-dance-surf-jam-pop band Cuckoo Chaos on “Healthy Ghost,” a track off of the group’s full-length debut, Woman. With harmonies, staccato beats and influences that range from Afrobeat to indie rock, Woman is a crash course in fusion and range. Opener “Jesus Flag American Fish” features a back-and-forth between music and lyrics that is echoed on many of the tracks that follow: Between verses, the unrestrained instruments are the focus, but during the verses, they are contained and serve only to back up the gentle words.
Thoughtful, lovesick lyrics are a common occurrence throughout the album’s seven tracks, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at their titles. “Slut Barf” tells a story of devoted love. It begins calmly—upbeat, but not running away with itself as many of the other tracks do—and acts as a backdrop for the vocal harmonies. With a slowed-down tempo and low-pitched singing, the stripped-down song is at ease with itself and does not let one single component or instrument overpower another. It has a cyclical feel to it, appropriate for a song about acceptance and letting go.
In keeping with the misleading title theme, “Possessed By A Corpse” is the liveliest track; from the opening drumming that hints at a funk groove to the obvious conviction behind every word, the vibrant vocal tones and Afrobeat-inspired rhythm section do everything in their power to make you believe the band’s five members as they sing, “Cheer up, you’re looking so sad/You know that life ain’t so bad.”
At the album’s end, you still don’t know exactly who this “Woman” in the title is. Perhaps Cuckoo Chaos chose such a nonspecific name for its debut album because it wanted to speak to the universal qualities of love. Fittingly, its members leave you with one of the most commonly used phrases: I love you. But they do something different by following it up with a genuine confirmation: “Yes I do/Yes I do.” It is that innate sincerity that keeps Cuckoo Chaos from being just another group of guys singing about a girl.