If you’re remotely open-minded about music, then the thought of “Brazilian” and “psychedelia” used together brings forth thoughts of chocolatey tropical goodness colliding with peanut-buttery guitar wah-wah. Well, this ain’t no sugar rush — more like something that squeezes the endorphins out of your brain like a sea sponge fed into a Juiceman. Looking like refuges from a Sid and Marty Krofft show and taking cues from Brazilian, Latin and American/English influences (but not taking them too seriously) the trio Os Mutantes recorded some of the most inventive music I’ve heard in a long time. More interestingly, this was all done a few years before I was born, beginning in 1968.
Started as a reaction against the stagnating and protective Brazilian cultural values of the time, Os Mutantes sought to bend, if not break, just about every rule they came across. “A Minha Menina” establishes an addictive samba groove, then spices it with the fuzziest guitar you could possibly find. Somewhere in the middle there is a vocal hook from sock-hop hit “Peppermint Twist.” The vocal/orchestral weirdness of “Panis Et Circenses” can only be vaguely described as what happens when you listen to the Mamas and the Papas and Sgt. Pepper’s at the same time, and just when you think it can’t get more post-modern, it does. The mathematical approach to the lyrics of “Bat Macumba” eliminates a syllable at a time from the refrain, all the way to “ba” and back, as guitars strung out on non-standard electronics parade around. A spritzing can of bug spray replaces the high-hat on “Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour.”
This is a veritable amusement park of sound, the sort of record that changes your perception of what can be done with music. If you’re remotely open minded about music…