Rock ‘was’ dead

New York’s No Wave scene (curated by electronics egg-head Brian Eno on 1978’s album) was an anti-commercial movement directed at the surface-sheen of ‘new-wave’. Eschewing, reacting against and rejecting ‘rock’s clichés and tropes, ‘No Wave’ pursued more avant-garde influences and methods in the creation of sound. This ‘mutant disco’ effected an arena where dissonance equalled resonance for ‘Mente’s co-producer Arto Lindsay’s band DNA and other off-the-beat freaks like Lydia Lunch, James Chance and pale funkateers Talking Heads.

Rock ‘isn’t’ dead

On his fourth album, Brazilian auteur, Thiago Nassif gives you this outstanding nod to that time and its (a)tonal acrobatics, all warped, winding and wafting wondrous wanderings. Screeching sambience (’Plastico’), beseeching bossa nova (‘Voz unica foto sem calcinha’) and cacophonous carioca (‘Santa’) make up this homely homily to mankind’s melting pot. Appropriation is the starting seed of all creation.

The indigenous elements Nassif applies here make you aware of the outward looking philosophies those bands espoused, seeking art beyond the artificial, craving new orders beyond their borders yet also highlights how the Brazilian movement ‘Tropicalia’ itself fused disparate elements as a covert vehicle for dissent and protests against the then fascist junta.

In 2020, fascism has different names and faces, but, the motives remain in sight. However, hope prevails. ‘Mente’ (named after the Portuguese word mente, which means “mind” and also “to lie”) is as Nassif explains: “Portuguese is the only language that connects these two semantic possibilities: thinking and lying. And also because now we are living this post-truth political era, where Brazil is at the top of the charts in these matters right now." Free your mind/no lie.

Rock is undead

The stale system that No Wave railed against still persists, if not exists worse than ever. Witness the witless and bland, vacuous zombie dumb-strummers that normalise passivity and apathy, one consumer preference after another until the conveyor belt provides an-other. Any ‘rock as rebellion’ historical potency commodified into an apologetic uniform. On sale at Primark. One size fits all.

Rock is alive

Nassif’s outstanding album, a contused, bruised schism and blues kicks off with ‘Soar Estranho’ (‘Sound Strange’) (featuring Lindsay on guitars): pure gonzo-funk that could fit seamlessly onto Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters and Super Creeps’. ‘Pele de leopardo’ (‘Leopard Skin’) is a jazzy jittery, skittery delivery in the vein of Talking Heads, the soothing sound of 5 songs colliding … and getting on like a building on fire. The kaleidoscopic ‘Cor’ comes over like a mangled rendition of the Peanuts theme as Nassif intones ‘love of colour’ over and over.

Rock thrives

Whilst there are artists like Thiago Nassif around to steer the (s)hips of the mobile and stem the tides of tedium the future remains optimistic.