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OS MUTANTES

Everything Is Possible! (Luaka Bop)

To say Os Mutantes, a Brazilian trio formed in the late '60s, were ahead of their time is to understate their singular genius, to suggest that we've somehow caught up with them. If only! The music founding members Arnaldo Baptista, Rita Lee Jones and Sérgio Dias created together, a crazy amalgam of psychedelia, bossa nova, experimental rock, samba and pop, is timeless — it sounds as innovative today as it must have sounded 30 years ago, and it will probably sound just as brilliant 30 years from now. Everything Is Possible! is a fabulous compilation of songs the Mutantes recorded between 1968 and 1972, ranging from the trippy, cannabis-inspired "Ando Meio Desligado" — which sets Jones' silvery vocals against a bass line cribbed from the Zombies' "Time of the Season," whacked-out keyboards and distorted electric guitars — to the exquisite "Fuga No. 11," with its tinkly bells and majestic Sgt. Pepper-inflected strings and horns. Every song on the CD is at once gorgeous and freakish, catchy and cacophonous, familiar and deeply mysterious. It’s no surprise that fans of the Mutantes include Beck, David Byrne, Stereolab's Tim Gane, Arto Lindsay and the late Kurt Cobain (who tried unsuccessfully to convince them to reunite so they could open for Nirvana in 1993).

With Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé and Gal Costa, Os Mutantes were part of the Tropicália movement, an avant-garde, vaguely leftist group of musicians who sought to revolutionize Brazilian pop culture with the use of electric instruments, subversive humor, far-out stage personas and surreal arrangements. They pissed off just about everybody, from uptight leftist folkies (think of the guy who screamed "Judas!" during Bob Dylan’s electric tour in 1966) to the draconian military dictatorship, which effectively killed the movement shortly after its inception by arresting Gil and Velosa and forcing them into exile. Even under censorship, however, Os Mutantes continued to record, releasing a handful of albums (the first three, reissued on the Omplatten label, are highly recommended) before they broke up for good in 1978. Live, they dressed up like Sancho Panza, a pregnant bride and space aliens. They wrote songs with outrageous titles such as "Ave Lúcifer" ("Hail Lucifer"). They created their own instruments, from the backwards wah-wah pedal on "Dia 36" to the can of bug spray used in place of a high hat on "Le Premier Bonheur du Jour." What more could anyone want from a band? They’ll blow your mind, they’ll crack you up, they’ll steal your heart, and they’ll make you believe that everything is possible.

 
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