To expect elderstatesmen and women to match the same output from young upstarts—a giddy light in an era of 1960s turmoil, making their own instruments and creating music under the wing of the hyper-political Gilberto Gil—is to grasp at straws. Three decades after splitting up, Os Mutantes reunited for an international tour in 2006, and, in 2009 reformed as an almost completely different band to create Haih… Or Amortecedor. However, despite the new line-up, Haih was what was expected: a record of the oft-mimicked but rarely reproduced sound of the revolutionary ’60s. So we must consider if the audience is different, here, too. The entire album, save “Eu Descobri,” was in English rather than Sérgio Dias’ native Portuguese—although, some of it was non-sensical Seussian lyrics, a first for Os Mutantes. To take this point to an even further extreme, Dias has long been the only consistent Mutante: The band’s new record,Fool Metal Jack, hosts a new line-up from the band, and of the five new band members, only Vitor Trida (vocals, keyboards, guitars) and Vinicius Junqueira (bass, piano bass) appeared on Haih.
Changes can be made, yes, but after 45 years, can new ground be broken? Dias sure is trying. Fool Metal Jack feels like his attempt to cross into attention-grabbing genres without any full-album commitment, a venerable pupu platter of indulgence. Yet, it doesn’t always work. “Picadilly Willie” is an attempt at buzzing metal circa 1985 and “Ganja Man” is, you guessed it, the token reggae track.
You may find yourself cringing along to these missteps, but the album also a pretty fair split between between good and bad. The balladry of opener “The Dream Is Gone” is haunting and the title track is in the same vein as Tom Waits’ growling narratives. “Time And Space” has a tad bit of George Harrison’s Hare Krishna days in it (although not nearly as much as the passable “Valse LSD”) and a whole lot of solemn metaphysical proggy untertones.
These, like most tracks on Fool Metal Jack, holds a fair amount of Os Mutantes signature psychedelia and feisty cheerfulness. Yet somehow doing what you know how to do is still the best option. The album’s highest note is “Eu Descobri,” a Gilberto Gil-written bossanova track that takes Os Mutantes straight back to 1968.