Sixties-era Brazilian group Os Mutantes has been namechecked by a Who's Who of groundbreaking musicians, from Beck to Kurt Cobain, the latter of whom famously pleaded in a 1993 open letter for the group to reform. More recently, David Byrne reissued choice cuts from the act's seminal catalog through his Luaka Bop label.
Now, Os Mutantes — one of the most influential international acts from the psychedelic era — is poised to bring its tropical-flavored mind candy to the Paper Tiger on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Though decades removed from its classic heyday, the group, led by original member Sérgio Dias, isn't a mere "remember when" retread of its former self. Instead, the new incarnation has garnered rave reviews, both for its post-2000 reunion albums and its electrifying concerts.
Formed in Brazil in 1966 by Dias, Arnaldo Baptista and Rita Lee — all teenagers at the time — Os Mutantes fused its home country's seductive bossa nova and samba rhythms with the emerging psychedelia of the Beatles. The group donned costumes and infused its music with a playful irony and youthful irreverence.
Soon, Os Mutantes became part of the nascent Tropicália movement — a flowering of Brazilian music and culture galvanized by the country's harsh political climate. A 1964 coup, supported by the U.S. government, had installed a repressive military government in Brazil, and the staid cultural landscape was full of manufactured pop stars.
Tropicália, and Os Mutantes in particular, challenged that status quo through a series of TV appearances and groundbreaking releases. The movement culminated with the 1968 manifesto album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circencis, which featured Os Mutantes along with Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé — all now Brazilian musical legends.
Os Mutantes' performance backing Veloso at the International Song Festival in Rio nearly caused a riot — with right-wing students pelting the leftist Tropicália artists with eggs, fruit and vegetables. Despite Tropicália's provocations, the Brazilian military regime held control until 1985.
Even so, Os Mutantes' first three albums — Os Mutantes, Mutantes and A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado — remain revered as creative masterpieces. Along with its lilting tropical feel and catchy melodies, the music incorporated studio manipulations, samples from TV and film, elements of musique concrète, baroque arrangements and even member Lee playing a can of hairspray.
Indeed, Os Mutantes' self-titled debut managed to land at both at No. 9 on Rolling Stone's list of the 10 Greatest Latin Rock Albums of All Time and at No. 12 on Mojo's 50 Most Out-There Albums of All Time.
Following a splintering of its original members, Os Mutantes hung it up 1978.
However, a heavy word of mouth among record collectors and psych fans led to a latter-day resurgence, and the band's avant-pop even ended up adorning a McDonald's commercial. Following a 2006 performance for a Tropicália exhibit at London's Barbican Centre, Os Mutantes has been writing and recording with renewed vigor. Its most recent album, Zzyzx, dropped in 2020.
$20-$25, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary's St., papertigersatx.com.
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