The Sexual Life of the Savages
(Soul Jazz, U.K.)
Can you picture James Chance dancing to samba? The minimalist snapping ticks of Kraftwerk done with a Latin curl? The Slits in Portuguese? Can you imagine the jerk and crooked pull of no wave folded into a carnival parade? The latest compilations in the seemingly bottomless Pin the Tail on Our Western Influences genre catalog the sounds of disenfranchised Brazilian youth discovering no wave and post-punk. Oddly enough, the two releases are unrelated: London's Soul Jazz issued The Sexual Life of the Savages, while Não Wave is the first disc from Berlin's Man Recordings.
Literature accompanying both discs points to a political and socioeconomic climate that was ripe for sharp angles and shouted lyrics. When a 20-year dictatorship was terminated in the early '80s, import restrictions eased and the masses erupted. If socially caustic, sonically corrosive anti-pop hadn't found its way to Brazil, its citizens would have probably made it up. But these songs suggest a more direct process of germination. One theory (Soul Jazz's) has DJ/singer Julio Barroso hanging out in New York with Arto Lindsay, the Brazilian-reared guitarist for no-wave royalty DNA, and bringing the sound home in his record collection. Featured on Sexual Life is "Jack Kerouac" by Barroso's Gang 90. Among the most lightly textured of the disc's 18 tracks, the song is more new wave than no wave, more ESG than DNA. At least Barroso didn't cop Lindsay's shtick.
On the other hand, Agentss must have worshipped Cabaret Voltaire. The evidence on Não Wave suggests that while their style is perhaps more playful than their British counterpart's, it's every bit as locked in to repetitive, thick electro-grooves. Also on the German release, Akira S' "O Futebol" and As Garotas Que Erraram's "Sobre As Pernas" achieve rhythmic ideals worthy of PiL references; the bass line on the latter's "Eu Dirijo o Carro Bomba" (on Sexual Life) could have been lifted from Jah Wobble. Using surf guitars and Farfisa, Patife are almost behind the times; they sound more like Os Mutantes' contemporaries than Talking Heads', although one imagines David Byrne would have been happy to lift their fizzing native sounds. Both discs offer some duds as well as truly fantastic tracks; it is by turns fun and totally boring for the non– Portuguese speaker to be spun around blindfolded and left to find your way back to the donkey with its tail in your hand.
Lindsay once told The Wire of his youth, "I thought it was part of the purpose of pop music to change people's consciousness and spread information." As it turns out, the better game of these two discs is listening to locate Lindsay's sourcing—and simply to discover this particular brand of rebellious expression. LAURA CASSIDY
In their too-tight T-shirts and clichéd rocker-boy mops, the Capes don't appear as mysterious in a publicity shot as their moniker implies. Their motives are clear enough, too: What better time for a British band to reveal itself to America than while we're caught up in a Bloc Party? That would seem to be the Capes' optimistic assumption; they've latched onto a fledgling Los Angeles label and are toeing the waters with an EP (see also Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc.). Barely breaking 20 minutes, Taste is divided into three flavors: two each of Blur-ry electronic surges, percussive head-boppers, and syrupy odes. The synth- infused numbers are the most addictive, fashionably enough. Lacking the Killers' dark undertones, the Capes' innocent distortion on "Francophile" is fun for its own sake, whatever vocalist Kris Barratt has to say about French wanna-bes. Unlike the Futureheads' frantic shouting, the Capes croon, particularly on the fast, Beach Boys–ish "Tightly Wound" and "Regional Heats." Then there's "Chromeless" and "In the Morning," ballads that recall nothing so much as Robbie Williams, a huge British star who, uh-oh, never made it big in the States. Is that an omen? CRYSTAL K. WIEBE