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Spotlight on: Play Drums and Bass by C.O.C.O.

Cover of Play Drums and Bass by COCO COCO, Play Drums and Bass

COCO is two people: a bassist/singer (Olivia Ness) and a drummer (Chris Sutton, bassist with Dub Narcotic Sound System). There is no guitarist; Olivia's multi-faceted voice takes care of the melody. (The name of the band, from what I can deduce, stands for Chris and Olivia from the City of Olympia.)

Play Drums and Bass is COCO's first album since 2003's The COCO Sound. In the intervening years, their songwriting has matured, while their sound has remained essentially the same. Their specialties are still danceable tunes ("Good," "For You" — both with vocal punctuation from Sutton) and slow, easy grooves ("Crime," "Tamara Dobson," "High Low"). Ness seems to have downtuned her bass to terrific effect, especially on the irresistably sexy "Your Own Secret Way" (which features Sutton drumming only on the rims).

Ness's vocal stylings are so full of feeling (her voice would sound equally at home in a smoky nightclub singing torch songs accompanied by solo piano), and Sutton's beats so addictive, that COCO succeeds in spite of its seeming absence of instrumentation. Sutton takes over vocal duties on two songs on Play Drums and Bass: the offbeat love song, "Ess. Ay." and "I Gotta Right," a satirical look at teenage rebellion that is hilarious in its lack of subtlety and pervasive use of the F-word (something like once per line).

Creative skinwork and melodic bass lines make up a lot of the slack left by the absence of a third instrument. The surprising result is how well it works. It makes you realize just how unnecessary a guitar is to the creation of deep, soulful rock and roll when you have two imaginative people willing to give it their all. COCO are one of my favorite bands for a reason, and that reason is that they Play Drums and Bass better than anyone else.

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