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Review: Os Mutantes – Fool Metal Jack
Published on April 18th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
In the continued absence of Arnaldo Baptista and Rita Lee, fellow Os Mutantes original Sérgio Dias continues to fly the flag to remarkable effect: remarkable insomuch as Fool Metal Jack, after 2009’s Haih Or Amortecedor, makes it two latter-day albums out of two not to feel at all out of place in the Brazil legends’ formidable back catalogue.
Written primarily in English and ostensibly a protest album, Fool Metal Jack finds Dias in inspired songwriting form and his new bandmates sufficiently in thrall to the composed chaos that has distinguished Os Mutantes since the very beginning. That impassioned, slightly absurd tremolo vocal on opening track “The Dream is Gone” rolls back the years almost instantly, not least because it’s set to such graceful, ornate psychedelic pop music with whirring electronic bleeps and lovely fingerpicking reminiscent of songs like “Desculpe, Babe” from 1970 LP A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado; however, this is no no mere nostalgia act.
The stomping title track is an ominously rendered tale of war, its strange, ascending chord progression a masterful songwriting touch to end the chorus with. This time the vocals are growled in another reconcilably Os Mutantes styling – they always did have that McCartney-esque way with voices – while Dias’s electric guitar wails like air raid sirens to complete the effect.
“Piccadilly Willie” is up next to fill the joint with monster riffery and a mix overflowing with colours and textures, like a painting using specks of different colours to somehow embolden the primary motif (whether by design or not, this is captured beautifully by Dias’s artwork), ending with sitar and a lady yelping “Bra-sil!”. So far, so excellent.
“Ganjaman” is superb, wickedly infectious reggae that sounds oddly like The Police but of course with far more underlying eccentricity and psychedelic tendencies, then “Look Out” takes the form of an organ-propelled rocker, like one of the rockinger things on 1971 LP Jardim Elétrico. Bia Mendes takes centre stage for the sole Portuguese number, namely the breezy, inquisitive psych-pop of “Eu Descobri”, and the ensuing “Time and Space” furthers the air of unpretentious sophistication with a Bowie-esque melody that could have fit snugly onto Haih Or Amortecedor.
Leaning particularly heavily on the psych, “To Make it Beautiful” meanders elegantly through rhythmic shifts, huffing cello and luxurious “ooh la la la”s, before the magnificent and thrillingly complex “Once Upon a Flight” implores “Open your mind, it’s time to get high / The limit’s the sky, you may need to fly”, conceivably an Os Mutantes mission statement.
“Into Limbo” ushers back in the lush with a sad yet beautiful song written by Dias when his brother and erstwhile bandmate Arnaldo jumped from the fourth floor of a hospital having been interned into the psychiatric ward in 1982; it’s the kind of tender moment that has always been interlaced with Os Mutantes’ crazier instincts to such arresting effect, with the added poignancy of real life context that’s very much in-house.
All of which leaves the proggy, all-embracing “Bangladesh” and the foreboding minor-key setting of “Valse LSD” to round off a latter-day album fit to take its place alongside this year’s similarly stellar offering from David Bowie, or last year’s from Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Continuing to put out records under the Os Mutantes name carries with it great responsibility to live up to one of popular music history’s most outstanding bodies of work; with Fool Metal Jack, Sérgio Dias has again proven himself resoundingly capable of it.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Fool Metal Jack will be released on 30th April through Krian Music. Os Mutantes will be touring the US at the end of April and first half of May: click here for dates. For more information, please click here to visit the official Os Mutantes website or here to visit Os Mutantes on Facebook.