Ao Vivo—Live at the Barbican Theatre
Most of the world still has no idea how much there is to love about Os Mutantes. For a few years in the early '70s, the Brazilian psych-rock trio adventured through the farthest reaches of pop music with a loony, Technicolor fearlessness that surpassed even the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Reacting to the stranglehold of conservative Brazilian politics of the era, the band spiked their music (and the Tropicália movement it was identified with) with a sense of guile, subterfuge, and humor that's difficult for outsiders to understand. In a broad sense, their political nose thumbing and innovative music making links them to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, who was igniting the streets of Nigeria around the same time Os Mutantes were tripping through São Paolo.
You listen to David Byrne, Of Montreal, Beck, and Devendra Banhart, so you should know that they all cite Os Mutantes as a major influence. You're in Seattle, so you should know that back in 1993, Kurt Cobain angled for an Os Mutantes reunion. It finally happened last year—after three decades out of the public eye, brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias enlisted star vocalist Zélia Duncan to replace original member Rita Lee, signed up a five-piece backing band, and played a handful of shows around the U.S. and England. This double-disc live set is taken from their first night back—May 22 at London's Barbican Theatre.
If you're a Mutantes newcomer, it's not the place to start appreciating the band. Their best material is represented, but in the live setting, the dark garageyness and spaced-out dubiness of the albums are replaced by the guitar pyrotechnics of Brother Sérgio—reportedly an acid casualty since the mid-'70s. The baroque-pop grandeur is present onstage—wild-eyed anthems like "Don Quixote" and "Bat Macumba" sound bigger, more elevated than ever—but the albums' studio-rendered schizoid ecstasy is dimmed by bandleader Arnaldo's mellowed delivery and Sérgio's aforementioned noodling. The songs are stunning, brilliant—compared to anything but other Mutantes music, they're unparalleled—but those first few albums are even more so.
As of September, Arnaldo has again dropped out of the band and Sérgio is working on new material with Tropicália godfather Tom Zé. That the band is back is good news, but to really experience Os Mutantes in all their mind-melting, heart-swelling glory, it's best to go back to the source. JONATHAN ZWICKEL
In 1993, Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo attended a rave at the Euro Disney theme park outside of Paris. Techno hasn't been the same since.
On the duo's recent U.S. tour—their first in 10 years—it was clear that Daft Punk learned a thing or two from old Uncle Walt. Their show, a sort of career-spanning Daft Punk megamix, was a massive spectacle of light and sound, with every element carefully constructed and synchronized to elicit maximum squealing glee.
Alive 2007, a sequel of sorts to Alive 1997, attempts to capture that experience. The album contains a live Daft Punk performance (recorded in Bercy, France, on June 14, 2007) and a bonus disc featuring a fan-shot video for "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" directed by Oliver "Brother of Michel" Gondry. The flat camcorder shots and quick cuts of the video aren't quite up to the task, but the music more than stands on its own.
For the tour, Daft Punk radically reedited their back catalog, adding jitters and jumps to familiar hooks, and more importantly, mapping out new combinations and mixes of classic tracks. "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" is more of all of those things with the stomping bass line and vocal hook (not to mention some unidentified synth squelches) of "Around the World" behind it. "One More Time" pops like champagne out of the bell toll of "Aerodynamic" before diving into the latter's gleaming guitar solo before one more elated chorus.
The first thing you hear on Alive 2007 is the crowd cheering; the audience's roar and hand claps are present throughout, echoing the peaks and filling in the breakdowns. The live show's most striking visual element may have been the flashing red words "ROBOT" and "HUMAN" on the enormous stage backdrop that, by the end of the show, turned into "HUMAN" and "TOGETHER." There's a utopian spirit behind Daft Punk's rave theme park, and listening to that roaring crowd and these anthemic songs, it's easy to believe a Daft Punk concert is the happiest (hardest, bestest, fastest, strongest) place on earth. ERIC GRANDY