The Mutantes are back! After an unnecessarily long hiatus of three decades and then some, the legendary Brazilian ensemble comes blasting back again with a killer record. This group, pioneer in the ever-venerated Tropicalia genre, has revamped itself in lineup and sound on their eighth full-length to produce a revolutionary twist on everything that is Os Mutantes. The idea of a new album for a band that’s been dormant for so long can be scary for fans: Will they just attempt to recreate the hits that made them glorious in the past? Will they step out of their boundaries and try to craft a new sound? What if the new sound is a bust? The answer to these questions is as simple as pressing play.
If you were expecting a mild album with little variety in style and mood, you were quite mistaken. Haih Or Amortecedor is direct, eclectic, comes on strong, and there couldn’t be a better “comeback” record out there. From the speech in opening track “Hymns of the World Pt. 1” on, Haih is an epic packed with political commentary and the unparalleled eccentricity of the Mutantes.
“Querida Querida” comes in with a simple beat and a clean riff that, when joined by Bia Mendes’ powerhouse vocals almost becomes a female version of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”. Mendes’ majestic wails soar so well over the drums and distortion in this new instant classic. The best thing about this record is its hilariously genius mixture of politically provocative lyrics and lighthearted beats. Sergio Dias, vocalist/guitarist and the sole remaining founding member of the band, effectively captures the essence of old school Mutantes while introducing a completely new 21st century sound.
It’s tracks like “Teclar” (roughly translates to “texting” in English), with its Middle Eastern intro and descent into soft, airy storytelling that portray the unorthodox nature of this royalty status band. “Text, someone texts me/Call me, or exchange looks/Leave a message or knock on the door,” croons Dias in Portuguese in the dreamy chorus. His almost comical lyrics and angelic a cappella moments make for a smooth relaxing tune with a bit of that lovely jokester charm.
Never refusing their rich Brazilian background, Os Mutantes master tropical samba sounds in “O Careca” and “2000 E Agarrum”, in the latter adding an orchestrated circus beat breakdown to remind listeners that they will forever be the wacky, playful, crazy outfit that emerged from 1960s military-ruled Brazil. In a shout out to the Latin American nations currently getting the brunt of their politics, Mutantes pushes at Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, as well as Bush and Obama in what is, in my opinion, the most genius track on Haih. “Samba Do Fidel” is a traditional salsa kick — fitting for the Cuban commentary — with a guitar solo that is basically Santana turned Mutante. Another stab at the world’s politics, and my personal favorite, “Bagdad Blues” sounds like Tom Waits if he drank some soothing honey lime tea.
Finally, the Mutantes continue to push forward their 1960s ideals and remind us that “we are all one” in “Neurociencia do Amor”, a track so awesomely spunky and sincerely full of love that it brings you back to the time of the band’s birth. “Nada Mudou” and “Gopala Krishna Om” are also reminders of the Mutantes’ roots and exemplary demonstrations of their prowess with tubular psychedelic effects and awesome command of their Beatles influence.
Heres to hoping Os Mutantes dont go missing again for another 30-something years, although if they did, Sergio Dias would probably still be the same rocking wacko he is now.
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