Ten years ago, Anglophone rock fans discovered the late-’60s recordings of Os Mutantes en masse when the band’s early catalog got a U.S. release. Brothers Sérgio and Arnaldo Baptista and U.S.-born vocalist Rita Lee fashioned a sound that slotted right in with the era’s psychedelic American and British faves: catchy tunes, rocking beats (with more variation, Brazil being Brazil), and keenly applied studio pastiche. Os Mutantes’ early records sounded like a still-thrilling frontier, and nothing is harder to carry into middle age than the buzz of discovery. Especially when the group isn’t the same: This is largely a group of new Mutantes led by Sérgio.
But it’s a good group, as it turns out. Though Haih… Or Amortecedor’s trappings are plenty modern (it begins with a clip of Vladimir Putin speaking), Sérgio is still smart and skillful enough to put a gloss on the classic Mutantes sound. The album is less a new departure than the band’s radical old departure, dusted off and given a healthy shine; the group even recruited lyrics from bent Brazilian-pop fellow traveler Tom Zé. The best stuff on Haih could fit, with a few adjustments, onto the band’s 1968 debut. “O Careca” is a slinky samba with the title phrase stuttered in astringently treated near-falsetto harmonies; “Anagrama” is a woozy walk in the park featuring Baptista and Bia Mendes fluttering and jabbing with each other. And “Neurociência Do Amor” takes flight like early Jefferson Airplane—or early Os Mutantes.