Loading...

Everything Is Divine Marvelous 

Tropicália shimmers anew

Wednesday, May 10 2006
Comments

Say what you will about despots, but at least they inspire flippin’ great music — think the blues, pre–Pol Pot Cambodian garage rock, and especially Tropicália, the late-1960s Brazilian stew of psychedelia and native beats. Even four decades later, Tropicália buzzes in your brain like Red Bull: bubbly, organ-drenched f-yous by Brazilian hipsters to the country’s military dictatorship, heavy on the chord play and politics. It shimmered brightest during those Manichaean years, 1967 and 1968, spurred on by musical titans Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil (now Brazil’s Minister of Culture), Tom Zé and other assorted maniacs. And then the despots got mad: They imprisoned Veloso and Gil but allowed the Tropicálistasone final show so they could raise funds for airplane tickets to England, where the despots deported the two. Nice despots!

Tropicália bubbled up stateside from time to time in the ensuing decades, thanks to musical misfits like Beck and David Byrne or the occasional compilation, but the music usually came devoid of context. That now changes, thanks to U.K.-based Soul Jazz Records (best known for its badass Studio One reggae series). Its anthology Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound squeezes together the best of the era and a 50-page picture-filled booklet that retells the Tropicália story. You know the Soul Jazz folks know their shit just by the album’s cover: red-tinted silhouettes of club-wielding policemen walking over the Brazilian lefty slogan “É Proibido Proibir” (“Prohibiting Is Prohibited,” which Veloso turned into a song that’s strangely missing from Tropicália).

From here, the joyous anarchy of Tropicália flows forth, as the artists hoot, pluck and shake out their charm. Os Mutantes easily live up to their reputation as the Brazilian Beatles — dig their fuzz-guitar freak-outs, bubblegum vocals and sugary prose on “A Minha Menina” (“My Girl”): (“The silver moon hid/And the golden sun appeared” as a chorus shoo-be-doo-wahs in the background). Veloso strums out the wistful ballads that make him such a Royce Hall favorite but also stuns with the namesake anthem “Tropicália,” a samba–bossa nova manifesto where he emerges from a haze of blips to howl his movement to the world. Tom Zé is . . . Tom Zé — strained duck vocals, moody fables of consumerism, and “Jimmy, Renda-se,” ominous bass-governed proto-funk with Zé breathlessly muttering “Janis Chopp” during the song’s crescendo (a play on Janis Joplin translating as Janis Draft Beer). And unappreciated diva Gal Costa contributes three irrepressible tracks — try “Sebastiana”: coos, sighs and laughs driven by an out-of-tune guitar and bumpy Carnaval drums.

Related Stories

  • Can David Byrne's Works Join the Classical Music Repertoire?

    The world is a very different place since Talking Heads emerged from New York's downtown, CBGB's/Max's Kansas City music scene of the late '70s. Today it's difficult to imagine a time when the stripped-down, postpunk eclecticism of the band or the art-rock eccentricities of its former frontman-guitarist-songwriter David Byrne seemed...
  • Genesis Emerging Artist Showcase Coming to the Theatre at Ace Hotel in September

    The Art of Elysium is a cool charity that helps artists, musicians and other creative types give back to their communities by participating in artistic workshops at children's hospitals and other places with "populations in need." For years, one of their major fundraising events has been Genesis, a showcase of...
  • Why Are We Fascinated By Resurrected Musicians?

    Nigerian electronic funk musician William Onyeabor has jumped from obscurity to fame in the past year, due to a Noisey documentary (Fantastic Man - below) and the release of his first album in nearly 30 years, Who is William Onyeabor? by David Byrne's label.  Onyeabor's story is dazzling, but hardly unique...
  • 1994 Was Music's Best Year 12

    Was 1994 the best year for pop music in history? Quite possibly.  Sure, some of it was terrible, but overall it was amazing:  Nordic black metal, Britpop, pop punk, trip hop, and the best R&B of the '90s. (Boyz II Men were peaking). Hip-hop's Golden Age was winding down, but a new, arguably...
  • Beck - Disney Hall - 11/24/13

    Beck's Song Reader Disney Hall 11/24/13 Here's a quick way to figure out if you would have enjoyed the star-studded performance last night of Beck's Song Reader, a lovingly illustrated book of sheet music published by McSweeny's which serves as Beck's most recent album: Imagine Jenny Lewis and Anne Hathaway...

The only sin Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound commits is brevity. There’s just one track by samba-soul pioneer Jorge Ben and two by Gilberto Gil. No live tracks. No excerpts from the Tropicálistas’ surreal television show Divino Maravilhoso or even Costa’s killer version of the title song with the sexy-serious refrain “Attention, everything is dangerous/Everything is divine marvelous.” But it’s okay — one can only ask so much from the guardians of the most beautiful music on Earth.

Reach the writer at garellano@ocweekly.com

Related Content

Now Trending

  • The Black Castle’s Mysterious Proprietor

    The worst part about running a metal venue out of your home is the mess. The proprietor of South Central club the Black Castle regularly puts on shows for hundreds of raging metalheads. He also lives in the facilities, which are housed in a former custom-car shop. Additionally, he’s a...
    2
  • The Best Concerts to See in L.A. This Week

    Be sure to check out our constantly updated concert calendar! Monday, August 18 Smoke Season ECHOPLEX Gabrielle Wortman is best known as the voice of the electronic combo TEMP3ST, but when she’s paired with Honor Society keyboardist Jason Rosen in side project Smoke Season, she reveals newfound elements of folk...
  • Check Out This Biggie Smalls Butane Torch

    In the past few years, a lot of serious potheads have switched from smoking marijuana to vaping concentrates like wax, which require the kind of heat that only can come from a butane torch. Unlike regular lighters, butane torches are fairly large and awkward. So a company called Errlybird is...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets