various artists The Sexual Life of the Savages: Underground Post-Punk from São Paulo, Brasil
Soul Jazz import
One thing that leaps out of Simon Reynolds's Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984 (out in the U.S. early next year, minus four chapters; for the real deal, go to Amazon.co.uk) is how many of the book's subjects--Talking Heads, the Zé Records roster, A Certain Ratio--went out of their way to engage a world wider than that of the art-school surroundings they could have comfortably limited themselves to. Sometimes the results were like ACR, bold without amounting to much; sometimes you got a masterpiece like the Heads' Remain in Light. But the idea that some far-flung something is always available to be found and explored is as honorable a creative impulse as any.
The parallels between those artists and the 20 bands collected on these two compilations of Brazilian post-punk are striking: Instead of drowning out Journey and ELO with their jagged noise and death-disco beats, the artists on the concise, flawless Não Wave and the iffier Sexual Life of the Savages (boo to Chili Peppers-ish slap-metal in any language) took aim at the "well-behaved MPB [Brazilian popular music] of the '80s" (per Bruno Verner's Savages notes)--the same stuff that inspired the Heads' David Byrne to start Luaka Bop Records. By contrast, bands like Agentss took their cues from Byrne's old band: Agentss' self-titled single kicks off Não Wave like an outtake from More Songs About Buildings and Food (complete with Eno-ish guitar phasing) sung in Portuguese.
It's just as easy to draw comparisons between most of the rest of these songs--Fellini's "Funziona senza vapore," on Não Wave, recalls a kindlier Fall, while As Mercenarias's "Panico" from Savages could be X if they'd been from Sao Paulo instead of Los Angeles. But the fun part comes in hearing how invigorated these bands are to take on sonic identities whose sources they had to seek out--not unlike British kids playing R&B in the '60s, or London grime artists reinventing American rap today. Post-punk has often been criticized as insular, and, like all music, plenty of it was. But the best of it was as universal as anything, and these discs, full of great tunes dressed if not voiced familiarly, are the ultimate proof.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment