Os Mutantes and Haih… ou Amortecedor…

5 out of 10: A legendary band that’s seen better days.

Despite the establishment of a right-wing military dictatorship, somehow the musical arm of an art movement, Tropicalismo, whose catch cry was “it’s prohibited to prohibit”, flourished towards the later end of the 60s and laid the foundation for Brazilian popular music. In opposition to the political atmosphere of the time, the tropicalistas drew from the tenets of the Cannibalist Manifesto written by a Brazilian poet of an earlier generation and ate up influences from all directions. Tragically, the government made good on its veiled threats by incarcerating and exiling many of the movement’s members, thereby stalling Tropicalismo’s continued development.

Os Mutantes, or, in English, The Mutants, were at the heart of Tropicalismo. They released three ground-breaking, genre-bending albums that did justice to their choice of band name before moving into a largely-forgettable prog-rock direction, and now, more than twenty years after their last release, Haih… ou Amortecedor… extends that portion of their legacy labelled forgettable.

Although there are seven of them on this release, only a single member of the original trio, Sergio Dias, is part of the current line up. Nevertheless, the music is suitably genre-bending and the lyrics political when not light-hearted fun, but the samba, forro, salsa, rock, soul and middle-eastern oud that’s heard from song to song, if not within the same one, sounds too much like pastiche bordering on parody that’s weird for weirdness’s sake. The bane of much Brazilian music, a too-clean production reminiscent of muzak or beige lounge, also serves the album poorly.

That’s not to say there aren’t successes: Anagrama is possessed of a fantastically odd melody that well-suits the sweetness of the lyrical sentiments; and O Careca is a fantastic, modern-soul update to an old Brazilian standard. What’s missing, though, is that prepossessing joy and naive fun in experimenting which made Os Mutantes justifiably famous and will remain the standard by which any group that goes by the same name will be compared to. This album ain’t half bad, but even though the band’s reincarnation has at least partially fulfilled the wishes of many fans, even Kurt Cobain’s, it’s not a patch on what’s come before.

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