Kurt Cobain, David Byrne, The Flaming Lips, Devendra Banhart and especially Beck – whose album Mutations (Os Mutantes literally translates as “The Mutants”) features a song called Tropicalia – are among the band’s impressive roster of admirers. It’s a list of names that illustrates Os Mutantes’ musical dexterity.
Haih Or Amortecedor is the band’s eighth album and their first new album in over 35 years. The good news is that Os Mutantes have aged surprisingly well. Their sound remains largely unchanged and Haih Or Amortecedor acts much more like a celebration of Tropicália as it was than any kid of manifesto for its future. Songs alter drastically in style, but all possess a soulful sultriness; this album perhaps isn’t quite the full throttle carnival record that people new to Tropicália might expect.
This is a record that, ultimately, requires time, as its success and the root of its enjoyment lies in its stylistic nuances and the degree of its intricacy. Think Brian Wilson‘s Smile meets of Montreal or Grizzly Bear and then drench that in lashings of Latin spirit.
Hyms Of The World (Part 1) kicks off the album with a revolutionary flavour. It’s not easy to know the exact meaning of what sounds like a political speech, as it’s said in Portuguese. Most of the rest of the album is sung in Portuguese too, but there is enough to glean from its rampant sense of adventure and its unquenchable revolutionary spirit. Querida Querida’s explosion of brass, crashing cymbals and drums, and corny Santana-esque guitar licks open the album proper.
It’s what the initiated would expect from a Tropicália album. But Os Mutantes don’t stick to convention for long. Ouds give Teclar a Middle Eastern feel, until its quirky harmonic punctuations send it off into later Brian Wilson territory. 2000 E Agarrum starts as a traditional samba before the bridge section mutates the song into a noisy daydream involving what sounds a lot like a fairground ride.
The slow shuffle of O Careca, O Mensageiro’s jangly borrowed-from-Peter Buck riffs and Anagram’s quirky duet slow the album down almost too much, and it takes its time to revive itself from this point. But for Tropicália purists, the long-delayed return of Os Mutantes will feel like the start of another bizarre, and certainly never boring, miniature revolution.