In the Wilderness is a feature in which a group of Strange Currencies contributors examine an overlooked or under-appreciated period of an artist’s career. In these “Slack chats,” we discuss highs, lows, and misconceptions, in order to shed new light on an era that we feel deserves a second look.
As part of Strange Currencies‘ celebration of Brazil Month, In the Wilderness returns with a feature on the beloved São Paulo psych outfit, Os Mutantes. Formed in 1966 by brothers Arnaldo and Sérgio Dias Baptista, along with Rita Lee, Mutantes would become one of the central acts in Brazil’s short-lived Tropicália movement. First playing a backing role to Gilberto Gil – appearing on his self-titled 1968 LP – Mutantes released one of the great debut albums in rock history shortly thereafter.
Os Mutantes  was a revelation, though few outside of Brazil actually heard it before the Tropicália scene collapsed in 1969. Undeterred – at least creatively – by the imprisonment and exile of Gil and Caetano Veloso, Mutantes soldiered on, releasing four albums between 1969 and Rita Lee’s departure from the group in 1972. By the time of 1974’s Tudo foi feito pelo Sol, Sergio Dias was the lone remaining original member of Os Mutantes, and the charming psych-pop of their earlier recordings had been replaced by a grandeur that aligned more closely with contemporary progressive rock.
By the 1990s, “alternative rock” icons such as David Byrne, Kurt Cobain, and Beck were singing the praises of Os Mutantes. Understandably, prospective fans were largely turned toward the group’s classic debut album as an entry point, but the series of records that followed also house more than their share of excellent moments. In this chat, Matt Ryan, Glenn Krake, and Remy Gottschling discuss Mutantes’ work from 1969-74, including the first two solo records by Rita Lee. Here are their thoughts:
MR: We tend to begin these with a discussion as to why this qualifies as a “wilderness” era. Does it?
RG: I would argue that all of their albums are wilderness. That being said, there is some genuinely great stuff here that not enough people know. Mutantes might have one of the best guitar/bass duos in all of music.
MR: I feel like the first album has worked its way into the “canon,” or at least it should have, by now. It currently has over 7000 ratings on Rate Your Music, whereas all of these are under 3000, and most well under 1000. That seems to indicate that a lot of people listen to the first one, and don’t go any further; even if they like it.
GK: Yeah; that shouldn’t be. I mean, the first album is certainly essential, but don’t sleep on some of these other albums.
RG: I know we’re not covering it, but their first album is one of my favorite albums of all-time and is absolutely one of the best psych albums ever. I have noticed some of my friends who have an above-average knowledge of music getting into that album, which is great. I mean, of all the bands who deserve to be held in the “canon,” I can’t think of any more deserving outsider pick. Although, would Mutantes really want to be considered canon?
GK: Good point, Remy.
MR: Not sure about their motivations. One thing that I find interesting/intriguing about them, is that there’s not a lot to find out there. Especially for those who don’t speak Portuguese.
RG: I was just reading that Arnaldo Baptista and Rita Lee were briefly married in the 70s.
MR: Yeah, only for about a year. Right up front, there’s nothing in this era that compares to the debut, but still a lot of value to be found in this batch of records.
GK: Right, and while I’m not quite there yet, I think the next two albums could and should probably be in the same arena/conversation as their debut.
MR: So, the point of this “wilderness” may be to provide a next step for those who love the first record but haven’t moved beyond it.
GK: Indeed. Hopefully this discussion will give people some direction to explore a bit deeper into what else Mutantes have to offer – which, I think we’ll agree, is quite a bit.
MR: Yep. Even the least of these albums have some really strong points.
MR: Shall we get started with Mutantes?
RG: This album is great. It’s the only one that feels like the true follow-up to the first one, but it also introduces some of the prog [progressive rock] and funk that would populate the later records.
MR: One thing that is worth keeping in mind with this one – as opposed to the debut – is that it’s mostly made up of material composed by the band members themselves. The debut had a lot of tracks written by their contemporaries in the Tropicália scene.
GK: So, while their debut was mostly covers of other artists’ writings, this album has the trio showing off their writing chops.
MR: Yeah, there’s more of a view into their writing on this one. Perhaps because of the focus on composition, the arrangements (mostly) seem less “out there” than on the first LP. With that said, there’s still a lot of the weirdness that one would hope for after the debut.
RG: I actually would argue that it’s about the same “out there” as the first one. They actually did a lot of cool interpolations and sampling on it.
GK: Plenty of weirdness to go around here. I was definitely thinking of Sgt. Pepper as I listened to this on repeat this week. And yeah, lots of sampling and “found sounds” as well. That was pretty innovative, right? I mean, for the time.
RG: For sure. Sampling in “western” or globally northern pop music really started around 1966.
MR: I guess for me, there’s nothing quite as off-the-wall as, say, “Panis et circenses,” but yeah, there are a lot of odd flourishes throughout. The production on “Qualquer bobagem” is really cool, especially towards the end. That’s where I really notice the sampling/found sound stuff.
RG: I’m listening to that one right now, actually. I like that trumpet sample – how it stutters around, especially near the end. I really like their melodies on this album. I want to point out “2001,” mostly for its main melody line.
MR: Yeah, “2001” is a highlight. That’s one of the songs that they didn’t write. Actually, I guess it’s a co-write by Rita Lee and Tom Zé.
GK: Okay, before we get much deeper, can we set some context/foundation here? I mean, looking at the album cover we see the three “Mutantes.” I mean, Os Mutantes is really those three, right?
RG: Yes, you have Rita Lee, and brothers Arnaldo and Sergio Dias Baptista.
MR: Yeah. At least until some of the later albums that we’ll cover in this set.
GK: As much as the first album, and Tropicália in general, was a movement was about collaboration, Os Mutantes was really the collective of Rita Lee and the brothers. Speaking of that, I think this album is when I started to realize it was Rita Lee’s contributions that I was most compelled by – specifically, her “Fuga no. II.”
RG: I second Glenn with that one, although it also sounds a lot like “O relógio” from the first album.
MR: Yep. It’s a highlight in my book. What are the other stand-outs from Mutantes?
RG: I like the second track: “Não vá se perder por aí.”
MR: Yeah, that’s a good one.
GK: Yeah, that second track really struck me as Beatle-esque.
MR: I definitely hear it.
GK: “Banho de Lua” has some cool space rocky vibes. I think another thing this album features is their humor. There’s a playfulness in a lot of this stuff – even just like the weird voices in track 2 and in the song “Rita Lee.”
RG: Imagine a Beatles song called “John Lennon.”
MR: Oddly enough, I haven’t found myself looking for translations for this album in the same way that I have for a lot of other records that we’ve talked about throughout Brazil Month. I’m kind of content to just listen to the vocals on this one as if they’re another instrument.
RG: I’m with you on that. I find myself accepting that I don’t understand the lyrics.
MR: …but in reviewing their debut, I found myself really interested in what they were actually saying. Not so much here.
GK: Yeah. I’m not sure I’ve been compelled either. There’s so much depth musically here, I’m not sure the lyrics need to be super meaningful. There’s plenty of depth in the tone and composition itself to communicate. I don’t get a sense that these songs were meant to necessarily be intense lyrically.
MR: That’s been a constant theme for me this month: do I need to look for additional meaning in music that I already really like, or not? It’s been about 50/50 so far.
RG: I’m definitely feeling that with my next review.
GK: Right, but when you have a song called “Mágica” and you can hear the Rolling Stones samples/tributes, do you really need to understand the messaging?
MR: I will say, knowing the lyrics certainly helped bump the score of Tropicália ou panis et circencis, but after the peak of the Tropicália era, I feel somewhat less inclined to get bogged down in any kind of “messaging,” and from the little bit that I’ve investigated, Mutantes seem to take a little more of a surrealist (less topical) approach as this era moves on.
RG: I like the, “You know, it’s time now to learn Portuguese / It’s time now to learn what I know” from the English version of “Baby” on Jardim elétrico. Anyways, of the albums with the word Mutantes in its title, I’d say this is one of the two best.
MR: It’s a very solid follow-up to a classic debut.
MR: Not a lot of low moments on this one, either. It doesn’t have the highs of their debut, but personally, I think this is the most consistently strong of the records in this batch that we’re covering – even though fan/critical consensus seems to rate the next one more highly.
RG: I think it’s a toss-up between this one and the next one.
MR: Okay, let’s move on to A divina comédia ou ando meio desligado.
RG: I love this album so much.
RG: “Quem tem medo de brincar de amor” is Os Mutantes to me – like the standout Mutantes track.
MR: Yes, “Quem tem medo de brincar de amor” is fantastic. As is the opener (“Ando meio desligado”). I think this album is objectively the “best” of this batch, but there’s one moment in it that really falls flat for me.
GK: Come on, out with it. You can’t leave us hanging. I’m ready to rip into you.
MR: What do you think it is? Remy already knows.
GK: When someone blows a raspberry?
MR: I genuinely don’t like “Meu refrigerador não funciona.”
GK: What!? My refrigerator doesn’t function!?! What is wrong with you? I love it!
RG: I like it a lot.
MR: Ugh. Is it a parody of Led Zeppelin or The Doors? Either way, it’s way too long, and totally out of sync with the rest of the album.
RG: I can see that. It feels very There’s a Riot Going On to me.
MR: Ugh. Don’t besmirch the name of The Family Stone with the least necessary Os Mutantes song. The ONE good thing about it is that I can just flip the record over after “Desculpe, babe,” and pretend that it’s not there.
GK: I actually think one of their later albums we’ll talk about in a bit is an entire parody.
MR: Hmm, perhaps. However, it doesn’t change the fact that “Refrigerador” is the low point of the first three Mutantes albums – especially when the album is on SUCH a roll before that.
RG: Am I the only one who feels that the second half falls off just a bit?
MR: Yes, “Refriderador” derails the rest of the album. The first four songs are all great, but it fades quickly after that.
RG: I feel like “Hey Boy” is more distracting.
GK: Don’t even start, Remy. “Hey Boy” is glorious. I am a sucker for doo-wop, though, so maybe I’m just partial.
MR: Yeah, I’m okay with that song. Not a highlight, but it’s alright.
RG: The entire first half is this psychedelic rush, with this almost “morning after” feeling of a song in “Meu refrigerador não funciona,” then “Hey Boy” comes along and it just feels like the soundtrack for a bad Twin Peaks season two plot.
MR: Well, there are a LOT of bad season two Twin Peaks plots, and they all need theme songs.
RG: That being said, “Hey Boy” is a good song; it just messes with the vibe of the album.
MR: Yeah, and it fits into the genre exploration that was present from the outset of their career. It’s way better than “Refrigerador,” but that’s a low bar to clear.
GK: Easy there, Matt.
MR: No, Glenn. Every time I put this album on, I think, “man, this is almost as good as Os Mutantes.” Until the fifth song starts.
GK: Well, at least we can agree that those first four tracks are fantastic.
RG: Yes. The first four, specifically the second one, are amazing.
GK: I think this review on RYM from the user afermata puts it best:
“Unpretentious sandbox psychedelia by way of feral South American children.”
I get a sense that these are kids just going crazy with creativity and innovation and not really paying attention to the “rules” of rock. I mean, no one told them doo-wop wasn’t cool anymore. They didn’t care. At points, this felt like The Clash’s London Calling. They were mixing all sorts of influences. There’s elements of rock and roll, western psych, blues rock, bossa nova, jazz, music hall, doo-wop… A sandbox.
RG: I can see the London Calling comparison. Makes me wish we had an early Mutantes double album.
MR: I’m starting “Refrigerador” up now. I’m hoping for better luck this time… Nope. Still sucks.
GK: I guess I can see the Doors comparison with the organ, but Rita’s vocals have just enough Nina Simone in it to grab me.
RG: I will say, the low point for me might be “Chão de estrelas.” It’s the first bad Mutantes song in my opinion.
MR: “Chão de estrelas” is the next lowest point for me, but it’s still a better genre pastiche than “Refrigerador.”
RG: Gonna disagree. I would pick a psych/blues rock parody over a weird vaudeville parody any day. Maybe all the prog I’ve been listening to lately has melted my brain.
MR: Maybe, but there’s at least some variety and odd production flourishes to “Chão de estrelas.” “Refrigerador” is six-and-a-half minutes of static cock rock. Boooooooring. I think “agreeing to disagree” is our theme here – at least to an extent. That said, the first four tracks, we can all agree, are awesome.
RG: Yes, and shout out to the last three as well.
MR: Okay, last thoughts on these first two, or really, their second and third albums? They seem to be of a pair. We really get into “wilderness” stuff after them.
RG: About as good as any other sixties band’s second-tier albums are, if that makes sense.
GK: Yeah. These first three albums from Os Mutantes are SOLID. I think I put all three of them in a tier together, considering that the debut album was more a collaboration and these next two are them injecting more of themselves, all to consistently good results.
RG: I could see moving to them being on the same tier, but I just love that first album so much.
MR: A great opening trio. They were never quite the same band again.
MR: Okay, let’s move on to Rita Lee’s first solo album, Build Up. First thoughts?
RG: I think it’s okay. Maybe my least favorite of the bunch, actually. That being said it’s got some cool highlights.
GK: Honestly? This got the most listens from me. I even had to rush out and get it on vinyl. This is where I started to hone my taste for the individual members of Mutantes and their offerings to the group.
MR: It has a completely different vibe than all of the others – almost more of a “traditional pop” record in some places. I like it, even though it’s not as distinctive as the others.
RG: There’s the catch. After a few listens, I can’t think of anything very distinctive about it. Maybe its lack of distinction is distinctive in its own way. Or maybe I’m overthinking it.
GK: Even though it’s a “Rita Lee” album, Arnoldo and Rita are dating during this recording.
MR: Oddly, it’s Sergio who plays bass on it.
GK: Right. But I think it has Arnoldo’s creativity infused in it more so than what I think ended up being Sergio’s musical calling card: the proggy sensibilities. I sort of saw this album as the Rita and Arnoldo album: sort of like a Brazilian Nancy and Lee.
RG: I like that take.
MR: I think it has some highlights, but they’re way below those from the previous albums. There’s a relatively consistent dip in quality throughout this wilderness, and this is probably the one-two sequence where it’s most strongly felt. Stand out moments?
MR: Yeah, that’s also my favorite.
RG: “Calma,” and the cover of “And I Love Her.” The original is one of my favorite Beatles songs, so I may be biased. I really like the guitar and the time switch on “Calma.”
GK: The first three are great, and the Beatles cover is good too. It’s a nice, dark take on the original.
MR: Even though I don’t share the same level of enthusiasm for it, “And I Love Her” is one of the more memorable tracks. The third track is cool as well. I enjoy a well-deployed autoharp. “José” is another good track – some good Mellotron usage.
GK: Yeah; “José” is just good sunshine pop. Rita is super playful throughout. Again, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of Dusty Springfield, and this has that pop feel for me that goes nicely with the psych elements.
MR: Yeah, still a lot of that idea of playing around with different genres.
GK: I like “Hulla-Hulla.” It’s got this melodramatic, Afro-Cuban vibe. Lighthearted. Not pretentious. It’s kinda goofy, but that’s why I like it. I ended up looking up a translation and it’s basically about extraterrestrials that show up on the beach one day and teach the local kids a dance while they chew gum to the beat. I mean, come on. That’s pop gold.
RG: I do feel like this album misses the chemistry the three of them had.
MR: Yeah. I like this album, but it’s not overflowing with character in the same way that the first few Mutantes records are. That’s a theme from here on out, but you feel it from the last one to this one.
RG: Can I mention how the typography on the cover bothers me? Especially the “t” in Rita.
MR: Sure. We usually do some discussion of cover art, and it’s best that we don’t begin that conversation with the next album.
GK: You’re wrong, Remy. That’s some good cover art. The font is perfectly fine.
RG: I generally like that kind of font, but it bothers me here for some reason.
MR: I don’t mind the typography, but I also grew up in the 80s-90s, and saw plenty of that font leftover from the seventies.
RG: It definitely is leagues better than the next album cover.
GK: I’ll concede that.
MR: Last thoughts on this album?
RG: Forgettable, other than some cool highlights.
GK: Not the best of the batch, but stylistically, the one that most hits my wheelhouse. Probably my favorite.
MR: Good, but not great. Which seems worse when following three legit classics.
MR: Okay, Jardim elétrico. Let’s start with the album cover. Fugly doesn’t even begin to describe it.
RG: “Man, the new Hillsboro Hops logo is trippy.”
GK: It is certainly an electric garden. Acid is a helluva drug.
RG: I kinda like it; looks like the California Raisins.
MR: I think it’s the “AAAAAAH!” that really completes it for me.
GK: It’s just a bit disturbing that there’s a hand in the ocular cavity.
MR: Well, that’s where the “AAAAAAH” seems to be originating from. Musical highlights?
RG: “Top Top” and “Technicolor.” “Top Top” picks up where they last Mutantes album left off, and the lyrics in “Technicolor” are amazing.
MR: Those stand out for me. Especially “Technicolor.” Fortunately, my favorites are all actually available on Spotify. The unavailable tracks were not among the better ones.
GK: As far as the album as a whole goes, it serves a purpose. This is really where they’re starting to think about international appeal. This album has quite a bit of English mixed in. I get a sense this album was them trying to package themselves for an international audience. Maybe a tiny bit toned down in the psych elements and replaced with more rock energy.
MR: Yeah, Glenn, I know you wanted to discuss the English-language album [Technicolor] a bit. I didn’t actually check it out though.
GK: The archival release, Technicolor, was originally recorded in 1970 but not released until 2000, with the intent of it being an English language version of Os Mutantes. Some of those tracks from that project came out here on Jardim elétrico.
RG: I love the production on some of these songs. Again, “Technicolor” stands out.
MR: Yeah. It’s a great sounding song, which helps it stand out from the pack.
RG: It reminds me a lot of Love, in that it’s a folk song with just a pinch of psych rock edge.
MR: I can see that. Arthur Lee probably would’ve had enough good sense not to put Plantman on an album cover though. “Virgínia” is another good song.
RG: The guitar in “Virgínia” sounds like Abbey Road.
MR: It sounds a lot like “Octopus’ Garden.”
GK: Right. “Virgínia” is totally “Octopus’ Garden.”
RG: A better version of it.
MR: Yeah, a better vocal melody.
GK: I like “El justiceiro” as well, if we didn’t mention it. There’s more of their melodrama, humor, and melding of genres. “Saravá” is a better version of Santana.
MR: Yeah, I like that one, but it’s not on Spotify, unfortunately.
GK: It’s on Apple Music. Just saying.
RG: I like when Mutantes leans into the “hair,” as some might say.
MR: Well, you’ll LOVE the next few then.
RG: And guess what? I do.
MR: This album definitely has some charm to it. I think it’ll grow on me in time, and I already enjoy it a fair amount.
RG: I like it a lot. I would like to hear all of it in a clear, non-YouTube version.
GK: Yeah. I think it serves its purpose. Maybe a light introduction to Os Mutantes to those who may be more skeptical of the super psych-y first three.
MR: Maybe. For me, it sort of hangs out in a weird middle-ground between the earlier, psych-y ones, and the later prog ones. I’m not sure who it’s for exactly, but fans of their work on either side are bound to find something to enjoy.
RG: I think on this one, more than some of the others, I can see where musicians like Kurt Cobain or Beck could’ve connected to them, seeing as how they were two of the main advocates for Mutantes’ rise in popularity in the U.S.
MR: Perhaps. It’d be interesting to see which Mutantes records they were into, specifically.
GK: Yeah, this has a Beck feel to it.
MR: Are we ready for Mutantes e seus cometas no país do baurets?
RG: Ready as I’ll ever be. This one was rough. I don’t remember a lot of it to be honest.
MR: It’s probably my least favorite of the ones that we’re talking about.
GK: It’s not great. I have a couple of takes to present. This is the one I alluded to earlier as the parody album. I even saw one critic call this album their “White Album.” Right down to the “Blackbird” rip-off.
MR: So, the second song is basically “Blackbird,” right?
RG: Yes, I actually really like it though. Rita’s voice is really nice in it.
MR: Yeah, it’s one of the better ones.
GK: Yup. I will say that “Vida de cachorro” is probably the highlight. It’s “Blackbird,” but with Rita singing, plus dogs. I did add it to my “dogs” playlist, so it has that going for it.
MR: I like Rita, and I like (most) dogs. Therefore, it’s the highlight.
GK: If their first album was Sgt. Pepper, this is the “White Album.”
RG: I’d say comparing any of their albums to the “White Album” doesn’t make much sense.
GK: It’s just that it’s pretty fractured. It’s all over the place.
MR: Well, “sprawl” doesn’t appear to be their strong point.
RG: “Dune Buggy” is stupid.
MR: Yes, “Dune Buggy” is dumb. Any other highlights?
RG: Not really, honestly.
MR: “Balada do louco” is pretty okay. Again, very McCartney-esque.
GK: Yeah. That one reminded me of “Let It Be.”
RG: I could see liking that one if I could speak Portuguese. It feels very reliant on its lyrics.
MR: That and “Vida de cachorro” two are my only real “keepers” from this album. But, listening to it again now, the synth on “Balada” is pretty bad. Maybe just the one keeper, then.
RG: I was about to say that I liked it.
GK: The English language version of “Baby” is nice.
MR: That’s on the last album, right?
RG: Yes, it is.
MR: Come on, Glenn. Get your shit together.
GK: “Baby” is on Jardim elétrico.
RG: We were talking about Mutantes e seus cometas no país do baurets.
GK: Oh. Crap.
MR: I repeat: Get your shit together, Glenn.
GK: What day is it?
MR: That’s okay, I suppose. They do start to run together a bit. Especially when you don’t speak Portuguese. Another bad album cover, right?
RG: It’s not great, but it has charm. That goes for the cover and the album.
MR: It’s better than Plantman. Any last thoughts?
GK: Last thought: I think this album is a parody of western rock. There’s a James Brown song, some Jerry Lee Lewis, Santana, Beatles, Zappa…
MR: Perhaps. That would make some parts of it make a little more sense. Still wouldn’t really justify “Dune Buggy.”
RG: Nothing justifies it.
GK: I’d also like to point out that it’s pronounced “Doonie Boogie.”
RG: I’d say that “Dune Buggy” is “Student Demonstration Time” level bad.
MR: Yeah, if this and “Refrigerador” are parody, they should have skipped parody.
MR: I mean, satire is in the RYM description. Did I miss some vital info?
RG: Maybe we Americans just don’t get the joke.
MR: It’s true. It’s true. We’re so lame.
RG: I’m ready to move on to better things.
MR: Okay. Rita’s Hoje é o primeiro dia do resto da sua vida is next. That’s better, right?
RG: I really like this one.
MR: This was recorded more or less at the same time as the last one. It was apparently supposed to be a Mutantes album.
RG: It feels like the best attempt at toning down the Mutantes sound. Also, it’s got some good prog in it, which I know we’re about to head into, but I listened to this one before some of the heavy prog stuff and it prepared me well.
GK: The first track, “Vamos tratar da saúde,” is great.
RG: I would say that’s my favorite.
MR: A few other good tracks as well, but that one stands out for me.
RG: I like the intro to “Tapupukitipa.” The bass line is amazing. It’s got that dark side of psych sound that the U.S. was just entering.
MR: That song, overall, was a low for me, but it starts out okay.
GK: If Rita’s Build Up is psych pop, this album is psych rock.
RG: Who played bass on this one?
MR: Liminha, who was a full-time member of Mutantes at this point. Arnaldo Baptista was doing all keys at that time.
GK: Speaking of the dark side of psych, that vocoder on “Beija-me amor” is still haunting me.
RG: I wasn’t as big a fan of that one.
MR: No, that vocoder part knocks it down a bit for me.
GK: Right. It’s kinda freaky disturbing. I’m with Remy on the bass though, and the bass tones in general. I especially dig it on “Hoje é o primeiro dia do resto da sua vida.”
RG: I like the intro to the last track.
MR: My other favorite was “De novo aqui meu bom José.” This is said about a lot of album combos and double-LPs, but they probably could have made one really good Mutantes record out of the best moments from this and Mutantes e seus cometas no país do baurets.
RG: There were best parts of Mutantes e seus cometas no país do baurets?
MR: Sure: two songs that were better than the rest of it.
RG: I would like to mention here that that was a joke, for when one of the original members of Mutantes reads this.
MR: Okay, let’s move on to O “A” e o “Z”, which was actually recorded in 1973, but not released until 1992.
GK: Super proggy.
RG: I really liked this one.
MR: The last two albums that we’ll cover really feel like a pair: both proggy; neither with Rita Lee. Of the two, I prefer this one. There were some shades on this one that I found more interesting. Mellotron, for example.
RG: This one definitely leans into the traditional psych side of things. I will say, both of these are probably some of my favorite prog albums. I think it’s a general prog thing, but both if these felt like one or two large songs.
MR: Definitely a prog thing.
RG: More so for the last of the two, but this one started that trend for Mutantes. I particularly liked how the second half of “Hey Joe” felt like Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead, thirty years before the fact.
GK: Ugggh. I sat through all twelve-and-a-half-minutes of “Hey Joe.” Does that count for something? If you can’t tell, I’m not a huge prog fan.
MR: “Hey Joe” has the lowest RYM score, but I’m with Remy in that I found the second half of it to be one of the more interesting parts of this album. Admittedly, this is not what I’m looking for in Mutantes, but it’s not bad. At all. There’s a definite Yes vibe to it.
RG: For sure, but I think if you forget who it is, it’s very good.
GK: I guess if I have to listen to a prog album, there are worse ones to choose. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? The last track (“Ainda vou transar com você”) is more reminiscent of classic Mutantes, or at least what I expect from my Mutantes. It’s more rock and roll, but with creative psych flavor; that’s the part of Mutantes I appreciate most.
MR: Oh yeah, there’s some good stuff going on in the last track, and I do like the ambient sounds that bookend it.
RG: I actually am listening to the last one now. I can dig it.
MR: I’ve softened my stance on prog over the years, but I’m hardly an expert. I wonder how “real” prog fans would respond to this. It’s not as showy as some of the genre’s touchstone albums.
RG: It feels more like a fusion album in some regards. I will say, there’s no real standout track to me. The whole album is an experience kinda thing.
MR: Yeah, the more continuous nature of it makes it hard to identify individual, specific highlights, and if you’re not predisposed to liking prog, these last two albums are probably a tough sell.
RG: I guess I like prog. Saying that gave high school Remy a bad feeling.
GK: Tough sell. That’s where I stand. But I can see if you’re into prog, you are probably going to get your money’s worth. There’s no denying their musicality.
MR: Definitely good musicianship, but this is almost an entirely different band than the one that made Os Mutantes in 1968. It’s sort of like how Pink Floyd circa 1973 was nothing like Pink Floyd circa 1968, I guess.
RG: You only said that to transition to the next one, because I had some Pink Floyd comparisons.
MR: Okay, let’s move on to Tudo foi feito pelo Sol.
GK: So, Rita was gone on that last album and now, Arnaldo is gone too? This is pretty much just Sergio Dias, right?
RG: Yep, pretty much. I really like this one.
GK: I saw the credits list “Mutantes” as the producer. What does that even mean?
MR: Feels weird even considering it a Mutantes record, but it’s not that different from the one that we just covered. Okay, maybe it is. That first song is a pretty jarring listen, even after O “A” e o “Z”.
GK: I put on that first track and was like, wow. This is prog. It felt very Zappa to me.
MR: Well, if it’s Zappa-esque, it’s probably best that I don’t know how to speak Portuguese. Man, that guy had a knack for ruining decent songs with sophomoric bullshit.
RG: I’ve spent a large part of this summer getting over my hesitation towards Pink Floyd, and I felt like this album was one huge Pink Floyd love letter – almost, just almost, to a fault. Very Dark Side of the Moon…
MR: It’s pretty Floyd-y. Definitely some King Crimson in there. And Yes. Maybe Genesis, if I could make it far enough through those early albums to have the reference point.
RG: The first song definitely feels like King Crimson. I also can see late-60s/early-70s Miles Davis in some of it.
GK: This feels like a different band. When you take a step back, it’s a pretty crazy progression for a group of musicians in such a relatively short time. Think of The Beatles’ shift from like Meet the Beatles to say Magical Mystery Tour. Big shift. Not necessarily bad. I like my Mutantes with more psych-y, sunshine pop melodies, hence my leaning towards the albums with more Rita.
MR: Fair enough. Again, this is almost certainly never what I’m going to want to hear when reaching for a Mutantes record, but it’s not bad. There’s enough character holding through from their earlier stuff to keep it interesting.
RG: I agree. I’ll always prefer their early psych stuff, but I honestly think all of these albums, minus Mutantes e seus cometas no país do baurets, have found their way into my musical rotation.
MR: Yeah, I’ll return to all of these to some extent. This last song on Tudo foi feito pelo Sol [“Balado do amigo,” which is actually a bonus track on later issues] isn’t very proggy. Kinda 70s-era Kinks-ish.
RG: Definitely has a Lola vs Powerman vibe. Also reminds me of The Beach Boys’ Holland.
MR: Any final thoughts on these last two albums?
RG: Not the best of the wilderness, but the most “hidden gem” of the bunch.
GK: If you’re into King Crimson and Pink Floyd, you may like these last two. But if you’re more into Astrud Gilberto and Nancy Sinatra, stick with Rita Lee’s contributions. And if you’re into more garage rock, psych-era Beatles and Beach Boys, then the first three should grab you.
MR: And if you’re into bad music, there’s always “Dune Buggy.”
RG: For fun, I just put on the first album. It’s so hard to think that the same band made “Panis et circenses” and “Dune Buggy.”
GK: “Doonie Boogie.”
RG: Going back to the first three, I forgot to mention how those albums bring out the ADHD in me. I don’t know why I just thought of that.
GK: Maybe that should be on the Mutantes sticker! “Brings out the ADHD in you!”
MR: Yeah, they’re very SMiLE-esque, in that they never stay in one place for too long. Whereas prog…
MR: Okay, we’ve already kind of hit on the usual final thoughts. Anything else? Favorite/least favorite albums?
RG: My favorite has got to be A divina comédia ou ando meio desligado; my least is Mutantes e seus cometas no país do baurets.
MR: It’s neck-and-neck between the first two for favorite – again Mutantes may be the more consistent, but Divina comédia has higher highs. Mutantes e seus is the definite low point.
GK: I go back and forth between Mutantes and Divina comédia as “best,” but I think Build Up is probably my favorite and will get the most listens from me.
MR: The Rita’s are both potential “growers” for me. As is Jardim elétrico.
GK: If Jardim elétrico ever comes out in full-on streaming, I’ll give it a “grower” vote.
RG: Jardim elétrico will definitely grow on me.
GK: The prog albums are tied for low from me, but that’s just a personal preference thing. I don’t begrudge anyone for calling either of them their favorites.
MR: Prog’s gonna prog.
MR: Alright, playlist time. We each get five picks. Remy gets the first one, as a first-timer.
RG: Gotta go with my favorite, “Quem tem medo de brincar de amor.”
GK: “Fuga no. II”
MR: Good pick. I’ll go with “2001.” Round 2:
MR: “Vida de cachorro.” Round 3:
RG: “Deixe entrar um pouco d’água no quintal”
GK: “Ando meio desligado”
MR: “Não vá se perder por aí.” Round 4:
RG: “Ave, Lúcifer”
GK: I gotta get “Hey Boy” in there.
MR: Wasted pick, Glenn. “Balada do amigo.” Last round. Still need one from Rita’s second album and one from O “A” e o “Z”, if we care to cover all of them.
RG: “Meu refrigerador não funciona”
MR: Seriously, don’t ruin an otherwise good playlist. Who are you, Tim?
GK: Ok. I’ll give Rita representation. “Vamos tratar da saúde.”
MR: I’ll go with “Ainda vou transar com você.” With Remy’s forfeited last pick, that gives us a solid fourteen.
RG: I stand by my pick.
MR: That song SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!
GK: At least he didn’t pick “Dune Buggy.”