Music

Os Mutantes: Mutantes Live

Nearly 40 years after the Brazilian psychedelic rock band helped spearhead the Tropicalista movement, Os Mutantes return with this double-live celebration.


Os Mutantes

Mutantes Live

Subtitle: Barbican Theater, London, 2006
Label: Luaka Bop
US Release Date: 2007-11-13
UK Release Date: 2007-07-23
Amazon
iTunes

Shortly after the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's expanded the palette of popular music, a collective of young Brazilian musicians gathered to record the even more radical Tropicália: ou Panis et Circenses. Compared to other records emanating from the US and UK in 1968, Tropicália wasn't all that crazy, really. Frank Zappa was way more out there, and poor Brian Wilson was so far ahead of the curve that even he couldn't keep up. In Brazil, however, the music scene was far less adventurous. Compared to the lilting strains of the samba, the Tropicalistas' sounds were wildly subversive.

In addition to long-established solo stars such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Gal Costa, Tropicália featured the Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes (obvious translation: the Mutants). After their key contributions to this groundbreaking work, they would go on to record a handful of albums in the late 1960s and early '70s. Os Mutantes (1968) and Mutantes ('69) are essential listening, brimming with zany and intelligent pop music. Their two subsequent LPs, 1970's A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado and '71's Jardim Elétrico veered more towards straight psychedelic rock. Though less inventive, both are solid albums. These four records offer up the vast majority of the songs performed on Mutantes Live. The band's core of Arnaldo Baptista (on bass, keyboards, and vocals), his brother Sérgio Dias (guitar, vocals), and singer Rita Lee crafted masterfully skewed tunes that fused Brazilian popular sounds with current "Western" rock trends, resulting in a sound all their own.

Os Mutantes kicked Rita Lee out of the band in 1972, after which the quality of their releases fell sharply. The two sides still aren't ready to work together again, so the reconstituted Mutantes are without their original female star. Since the group's arrangements rely on the leads and harmonies Lee originally provided, they took on a new vocalist, Zélia Duncan, for their comeback lineup. The rhythm section wasn't fully formed until album two, and bassist Liminha and drummer Dinho Leme didn't officially join the band until 1971. The former is busy producing, but Leme has returned to his throne.

Amazingly, Mutantes Live was recorded during the band's very first reunion show at London's Barbican Theater in May of 2006. It's clear from the incredibly tight performances of this often-tricky material that they didn't just hop up on stage and hope for the best. Today's Os Mutantes are every bit as skilful and expressive as they were in their heyday. Opening track "Don Quixote" features prog-tastic vocal synchronizations worthy of "Bohemian Rhapsody", while "Cantor de Mambo" is a sultry rocker with a Santana-like combination of hand drumming and scorching lead guitar, and "2001" is an odyssey-in-miniature that turns on a dime from spaced-out jam to dizzy pop tune. All of the band's best numbers are here, including the singles "I Feel a Little Spaced Out (Ando Meio Desligado)" and "Top Top", the beautiful ballad "Baby", and plenty of other trippy ditties from their songbook.

Mutantes Live is, above all else, a joyous album. In their original context, many of these songs possessed paranoid undertones. Given that the country was overthrown by a military regime around the time they were recording, this edge is understandable. After all, their pals Gil and Veloso were exiled from Brazil. Energetically, the Mutantes of 2006 have turned these vibes inside out, unleashing a 21-track party across two CDs. Joining this fête is super-fan and "Naturalismo" founder Devendra Banhart, the indie folk bard whose championing of Tropicalia rivals Beck's, but not that of Luaka Bop label founder and former head Talking Head David Byrne. Regardless, it is Banhart who, along with his buddy Noah Georgeson, helps out on the most wonderfully insidious Os Mutantes track of all time, "Bat Macumba". The song is so simple and catchy it could have been a hit on Sesame Street. The lyrics begin with the line, "Bat macumba ê ê, bat macumba oba", after which one syllable is chopped off the end with each repetition. Once you get to "bat", you start building it up again. It only takes one listen for this track to be stuck in your head for a week.

Os Mutantes do their best to reset your brain with the sing-songy "Panis et Circenses". (This translates to "bread and circuses", a nearly two-millennium-old phrase meant to criticize a government that keeps its populace placated with readily available, low-quality food and entertainment. It's tough to imagine, I know.) Anyway, in addition to being the group's signature song, it's quite catchy and makes for the perfect finish to this excellent album. It's wonderful to hear Os Mutantes at it again and sounding as vibrant as ever. We can only hope the reunion tour captured on Mutantes Live is the beginning of a new era of music from the band. Clearly, they are still at the top of their game.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image