Os Mutantes, Best Coast @ The Forum, Melbourne (11/02/2011)

Best Coast seem like the kind of band it would be fun to hang around with. They are from California and the play fast, scuzzy pop music about smoking weed and boyfriends and flying over the ocean. They smile a lot and have tattoos. Their debut LP Crazy For You was one of the best releases of last year and live it was even better.

You’d call their music breezy if it wasn’t so loud. The doo-wop choruses that coloured Crazy For You were replaced with noise, the guitars of Bethany Consentino and Bobb Bruno tangling together in a haze of feedback and distortion. Despite all the decibels, the songs, in particular When I’m With You and of course Boyfriend were just as foot-tappingly catchy as they are on record

A lot of the credit has to go to Consentino, the singer and principle song writer of the band. She has a keening angular voice, which says a lot without really saying anything. She sings lines like “I wish he was my boyfriend/One day I’ll make him mine/And we’ll be together all the time/We’ll sit and watch the sun rise/And gaze into each other’s eyes” with a mixture of irony and earnestness, that somehow works. In less capable hands the lyrics would end up sounding trite or trivial, but Best Coast are a band that understand the difference between simple and simplistic. The only problem with the set was that it was over so quickly; barely a break was taken as Consentino zoomed from song to song. By the end of the set she seemed to be panting, and as the crowd stopped cheering, I realized that I was too.

Brazilian psych legends Os Mutantes have a similarly sunny disposition to the Californian three-piece, yet their music couldn’t be more different. It’s music with ADD; complex, shape shifting music, with barely a bar played the same twice. Lead singer Sergio Dias walked onstage to a sampled horn line in a red cape and a hundred watt grin. Six other musicians joined him, all decked out in psychedelic regalia. Fittingly, they opened with Tecnicolor, an adjective that pretty much summed up the set.

Tracks like Bat Macumba or A Minha Menina, (from their seminal self-titled debut in 1968) seem every bit as vital and alive as they did then. This is especially impressive considering the fact that Dias is the only remaining member from the original lineup. The newer members (many of them 20 years younger than Dias) do a remarkable job of channeling the band’s sound perfectly replicating the Tropicalia harmonies and caustic guitar, the hyperactive rhythmic changes and intrinsic sense of fun.

This playfulness was evident throughout the set, both in the music and the banter between Dias and the crowd (at one point he even broke into a Tropicalia rendition of Olivia Newtown John’s Let’s Get Physical). Even though some songs, like Neurociencia do Amor, from the group’s most recent album, felt a bit watered down, you would have to be trying very hard to not dig this band. Looking at the crowd’s faces, it was clear that Os Mutantes were warmly appreciated.