MOSSING ABOUT: CHICO SCIENCE AND NAÇÃO ZUMBI – Da Lama ao Caos (1994)

Review dedicated to Margaret Murdoch and Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho
Written by: Jonathan Moss 


The more Brazilian music I listen to the more I think it’s unjust that its countries like the USA and Britain that are focused on. However, this is a review of a specific album, not a thinkpiece on the implicit white supremacy of the music industry. 

Well, when I get assigned these sort of albums, albums I don’t know the background to, it can be quite exciting, because I get to listen to them completely context free, no pressure to conform to any sort of opinion, positive or negative. So my friend France gave me this album to review and I listen to it on Spotify, quickly ascertain that I enjoy it, i listen to it more times, find more things to enjoy, specific tracks I like and so on. I discover it’s an energetic, brash catchy album with a fun, likeable, charismatic singer. Then I actually look it up and discover that the singer died in a car accident at the age of 30. Oh, and that the album is critically acclaimed. So, looks like without having to feel the pressure of conformity I still picked the right opinion! 

And man, for an album which I’ve seen compared multiple times to Rage Against The Machine I really don’t hear it. Rage Against The Machine are a kind of dour, grey band with no range and a singer who, whilst angry, doesn’t really have any charisma. Da lama ao caos (which, according to google translate translates to “from mud to chaos”) instead is a rather lively and varied album. This isn’t to deny or downplay the politics. Though I can’t understand what Chico Science is singing, the album certainly does have a strident militant vibe, and occasional moments of melancholy as well, but with the funky and occasionally abrasive guitars I would more compare them to Gang of Four than Rage Against The Machine, if I have to compare them to any other leftist band. However, the album is fun as well, unlike either of those bands! How so? Well, first of there is the percussion, which is very rhythmic and erm….latin (sorry France), giving the album a danceable feel, like a hypothetical caribbean soviet disco. This interacts smoothly with the bass as well, which is funky and melodic, while still being understated and holding shit together. Then of course there’s Chico himself, who as I mentioned before is quite charismatic. He’s not the most tuneful singer but he has a lot of energy and passion, like a guy you could hang around with and get occasionally into heated debates with, but end it all with some friendly joke wrestling. Intense but affable. This dialectic is echoed perfectly in the guitar playing as well, which is rough and distorted and on a few tracks even heavy metal, but despite this retains a looseness and spontaneity.  

These elements are all demonstrated beautifully in the opening song “Montologo ae Pe do Ouvido”, a fiery anthem opening with strident blood pumping percussion (hand percussion played by Chico I understand) and clanging psychedelic guitar playing. Chico speaks ominously over it and from there a lighter percussion part starts as well as a groovy little bassline, and then the guitar comes right in, turning it into a fantastic rock song with a great intense rhythm part and a menacing but funky lead part! Chico kind of rap-sings it, very enthusiastically and with a passion that demands respect. Perfect music for the upcoming revolution. Got me air guitaring like an idiot. 

The title track is a masterpiece as well, with a seismic crunchy lumbering riff and spat out vocals from Chico. Lucia Maia also does several quick searing guitar solos. The song in general has a stormy paranoid vibe, like Black Sabbath but sublated from fantasy to reality, perhaps Chico is singing about some war that happened (yes, I know Black Sabbath had songs about wars, but there’s involved witches and fairies). The following song is a classic as well, “Maracatu Tiro Certeiro”, with a fantastic scratchy funky rhythm guitar, like an erupting volcano which people from the beach are partying on top of. Antene-Se is another fab song, funky slapped bass playing and a wah-wah guitar! It sounds so self-assured and confident, like a renegade businessman who has joined the cause and is bombing his old company! Okay, with “slapped bass” (i’m not actually sure it’s slapped, it just sounds like it. Either way its fluid and melodic) and “wah-wah guitar” i may have made it sound cheesy, but trust me, the punkish spirit of it, melodicity of the guitar, badass groove of the song and Chico’s fun but militant shouted vocals give it a lot of personality and vigour. It even ends with a short ominous synth bit!

There’s a couple of good short instrumentals as well. The first one is a very busy song with an agitated vibe and melodic bass. The second one has more awesome heavy metal guitar part which is built up by militaristic drumming and a weird sound that could be an air horn or something. They’re cool interludes and both come before amazing songs, working to enhance them in creating a build-up and tension. 

The last two songs end the album on a bleaker vibe. “Computadores Fazem Arte” is an intense melancholic rocker with more melodic singing from Chico. He sounds almost nostalgic and kind of wails in a slightly lower range, not baritone, but more romantic sounding. The bass line is hooky and ambiguous sounding, the guitar playing an angular shuffle, with a passionate mourning lead line occasionally showing up. “Coco Dub (Afrociberdelia)”, as its name suggest is a slow, psychedelic number, with a sorta apocalyptic vibe. The guitar line is really interesting, it sounds kinda like morse code being tapped out, but if morse code had been created by a depressive post-punker. Chico makes weird bird sounds at one point, there’s a catchy sci-fiish synth sound and groovy, tribalesque percussion. 

There’s some other great songs on the album but this review is already too fucking long and I think I covered the best ones. All the songs are cool though, try to ignore the fact that Rolling Stone Magazine likes this album and check out it!  
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Author: tomymostalas

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