Garotas Suecas at Schubas Tuesday: Not Tropicalia, but Not Bad | Bleader

Monday, September 13, 2010

Garotas Suecas at Schubas Tuesday: Not Tropicalia, but Not Bad

Posted By on 09.13.10 at 05:22 PM

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Garotas Suecas
  • Garotas Suecas
Just about every piece of American writing I've seen lately about the Brazilian rock band Garotas Suecas ("Swedish Girls") has mentioned tropicalia, a multidisciplinary arts movement that lasted more or less from 1968 till '70. Its best-known musical exponents were Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Ze, and Os Mutantes. I suppose I can detect a slight Os Mutantes influence on Escaldante Banda (American Dust), Garotas Suecas' brand-new album, but it's marginal at best—if you can hear it at all, you'll hear it mostly in the emphatic, falsetto-peaked singing of Guilherme Saldanha. I'm not sure how "tropicalia" came to be the go-to word for describing the band. "Lots of lazy music writers" is my best guess.

If the group sang in English rather than Portuguese I'm pretty sure you wouldn't see the term "tropicalia" used at all. Part of what made tropicalia music so potent and enduring was the way its practitioners eagerly consumed pop from outside of the country and ingeniously married it to homegrown styles like samba, bossa nova, and forro. Garotas Suecas don't really bother with Brazilian genres, though like so many other Brazilian bands they can't seem to help jacking up rock's rhythmic propulsion with energetic funkiness.

In some ways young Sao Paulo group is closer to the pop trend that preceded tropicalia, known as Jovem Guarda ("young guard")—a collection of artists who aped pop and rock music from the U.S. and the UK. The poster child of the scene, Roberto Carlos, grew out of imitation and went on to become one of Brazil's most popular singers, with a focus on romantic ballads. Garotas Suecas aren't bad, as you can hear for yourself below (I've posted the new album's best track, "Tudo Bem"). They sound like they do most of their pillaging in 60s R&B and soul, though there are some disco accents as well—and the female harmony singing sounds like it was nicked from the Broadway version of Hair. There's not much bite to the music, another quality that links them to the Jovem Guarda, who rocked but never very hard. Garotas Suecas have earned a good reputation for their live shows, and they play the kind of party-oriented stuff that I imagine would be enhanced by a few beers.

Garotas Suecas play Schubas on Tuesday night.

"Tudo Bem":

Today's playlist:

Ulrich Gumpert and Günter "Baby" Sommer, Das Donnernde Leben (Intakt)
Dr. John, Whatever Goes Around (Comes Around) (DBK Works)
Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight, A Bed of Roses (Topic)
Henk Badings, More Electronic Music by Badings (Basta)
Byetone, Death of a Typographer (Raster-Noton)

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