Album Review of Fool Metal Jack by Os Mutantes.
Release Date: Apr 30, 2013
Record label: Krian Music Group
Genre(s): Latin, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, International, Brazilian Pop, Brazilian Traditions, Tropicalia, MPB
When tropicalia legends Os Mutantes re-formed after over 30 years dormant in 2006, many fans of their classic early albums weren't sure what to expect. Absent was iconic singer Rita Lee, and by that point their legacy was so foundational to a lot of music that came afterwards, improving on it or even continuing it respectably seemed like a daunting task. However, the reunion shows went well and 2009's Haih...Ou Amortecedor..., an album that included collaborations with big names like Tom Zé and Jorge Ben, met with some positive reviews, though it was clear the band wasn't attempting to pick up where it left off.
On which the Brazilian Tropicália legends best known for sunshine anthem ‘A Minha Menina’ and loved by everyone from Kurt Cobain to Flying Lotus tackle issues such as the American housing crisis and war. The results on their 10th studio album are pleasingly baffling: opener ‘The Dream Is Gone’ is the spit of Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’, and the title track is a dour metallic stomp, punctuated by Hammond organ burps. The odd misstep apart – ‘Ganjaman’ is a horrid attempt at reggae – it’s testament to the band’s quality that they sound equally at home with the Beatles-y ‘To Make It Beautiful’ as with the bossa-esque ‘Eu Descobri’.Ben Cardew .
Os Mutantes were always schizophrenic. Born of brothers Arnaldo and Sérgio Dias Baptista and lead singer Rita Lee, their first two records from the late ‘60s were eclectic intoxicating journeys, seamlessly combining tropicalia, bossa nova, and samba music with the psychedelic rock of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix into their own warped style of songwriting. This was psychedelic music completely distinct from anything else in its time.
While American audiences were listening to the silky, unwrinkled delicates provided by the likes of Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert’s A&M label, Os Mutantes were exploring the darker side of Brazilian life. From the group’s very inception its founding members, Sergio Dias, his brother Arnaldo Baptista, and singer Rita Lee, have used music as a means of protest and revolution. Os Mutantes’ musical activism drew the ire of the Brazilian government, who sought to censor the group’s final official album (prior to reuniting), 1975’s E Seus Cometas No Pais Do Baurets, to the point of delaying its release.
With five new, young members surrounding original guitarist Sergio Dias, the new incarnation of the influential Brazilian band Os Mutantes, one of the wilder emanations of the late-1960s/early-1970s Tropicalia movement, revives not so much the group as its recherché, cult-inspiring brand. “Fool Metal Jacket” proposes a journey through mostly progressive and psychedelic terrain, layered with growly fuzz, ethereal sitars, but also open, airy spells garlanded with melancholic harmonies. Save a Gilberto Gil track, “Eu Descobri,” the record’s sole bossa nova-ish moment and a high point, the songs here are in English, and the writing is hit-or-miss, from the sad and beautiful “Into Limbo” to the rote flower-power of “Bangladesh,” one of a couple of head-scratchers here.
To expect elderstatesmen and women to match the same output from young upstarts—a giddy light in an era of 1960s turmoil, making their own instruments and creating music under the wing of the hyper-political Gilberto Gil—is to grasp at straws. Three decades after splitting up, Os Mutantes reunited for an international tour in 2006, and, in 2009 reformed as an almost completely different band to create Haih… Or Amortecedor. However, despite the new line-up, Haih was what was expected: a record of the oft-mimicked but rarely reproduced sound of the revolutionary ’60s.
Time hasn't been kind to Os Mutantes. The Brazilians' seminal back catalog bears the distinct time stamp of late Sixties São Paulo – avant-pop Tropicália – and 2009's unexpected comeback Haih or Amortecedor did little to summon its warped charm. Sérgio Dias, lone member from the original trio, crosses over here with an album predominately sung in English.