This Brazilian band’s music was part of a revolutionary movement based in surrealism and political protest called Tropicalia, and though part of the ‘60s counter-culture its influence on everything from American psychedelic fringe rock to indie pop to avant jazz is still being heard. Tropicalia burned brightly and briefly at the end of the 60s in the governmentally terrorized country, and was pretty well forgotten by the arrival of Musica Popular Brasileira as the nationally favored sound.
The band started out as the more formal Six-Sided Rockers but quickly evolved via a fannish adoration for the Beatles and a love of playt. Made up of Sergio Dias (guitar, bass), Arnaldo Dias Baptista (bass and keyboards), and Rita Lee (vocals, percussion, effects), Os Mutantes were many things to Brazil, firstly as mesmerizing live performers. Their first three albums are essentials in any collection of great rock music. They have kept up the energy of their live performances, even touring recently and performing in Seattle at the Moore Theater in 2006.
The members were also including hosts of a subversively improvisational TV program that earned them virtual exile status for equating clowns with dictators. Their early combination of bizarre tinkering with rock music’s format and performance has inspired bands from the Talking Heads to Nirvana to Of Montreal. For years, crate diggers murmured their reputation at record collector swap meets,, till David Byrne released a career anthology for them, featuring the band’s unique combination of classical, folk, rock, samba, and bossa nova. It’s reported that Kurt Cobain had begged them to reform to play out with Nirvana in South America in the 90s, but to no avail.
When Os Mutantes toured in 2006 it was their first time in over thirty years, and Seattle label Light In The Attic became the distributors of their catalogue, including their later heavier experiments in progressive rock. As the music they make is so playful and rhythmic, the early time for their set isn’t as blasphemous to their anarchic energy as it might seem — this would be a great rock show for fans of all ages, as they seek to entertain as well as freak you out.