What happens when Brazil's reigning pop diva joins forces with cerebral rocker Arnaldo Antunes and ultra-hip percussionist Carlinhos Brown? That's a trick question, really, since they've gotten together before. The result was the superb Rose and Charcoal (Metro Blue, 1994), released under Monte's name, but featuring all of the Tribalistas trio in major roles.
Their latest venture is somewhat less successful - given the hype about "secret" recording sessions, supposed overt connections with the Tropicália movement of the late 1960s (which was characterized by high-flown intellectualism and social protest, among other things), and the usual media frenzy accompanying Monte's work, that's a given - or is it? Much depends on your ability to see past myriad banner headlines and over-the-top accolades.
So here's what the album is (to me, at least): well-crafted pop, tailor-made for the dance floor. And here's what it isn't : an ideological manifesto (like Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis ), as some believe. Arnaldo Antunes' lyrics are one of this disc's greatest pleasures - he's an outstanding poet, and it shows. Though the mood is often celebratory (love, Carnaval, parading with your samba school), there's a persistent melancholy undertone that would do an existentialist proud. For example:
Lay on my breast and devour me In life all that is left is to go on A risk, a step, a gesture down the river
Love is ugly it looks like addiction it walks the highway free of obligation
Although a few of the cuts are downright silly, they may well be conscious emulations of some of the barmier songs recorded by the Tropicalistas. But enough '60s nostalgia - Tribalistas is both in (and of) the moment, and it's a pretty hopeful summation at that.