The title track to Os Mutantes' forthcoming album, Fool Metal Jack, starts with an ending. "Yeah, I'm gonna die / Shot in the gut / My blood is everywhere," frontman Sérgio Dias croaks over a lurching bass line and stumbling percussion. "My two legs are gone / I don't feel a thing / I won't see my daddy no more."
Dias, leader of the Brazilian psych-rock icons, says he was inspired to write the song — which captures a young, naïve soldier's final moments — after spotting a group of fresh-faced American soldiers boarding a plane at an airport.
"They were so, so, so fresh," Dias recalls. "They're not professional soldiers or anything like that. It gave me a feeling of sorrow... I understand the concept of, 'Okay, we're defending the country,' but I don't know, sometimes you have to question. What I did in the lyrics was I put myself in their place." The Brazilian native-turned-U.S. resident insists that the words poured out of him in his South American studio. "I wrote the lyrics in a passion, in half an hour," he says.
The title to "Fool Metal Jack" is a clear nod to Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick's 1987 shock-and-awe-inducing examination of the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War. Dias describes the song as "an awareness song," not a protest song, and labels the Full Metal Jack LP — Os Mutantes' follow-up to 2009's Haih... Or Amortecedor and the collective's second full-length since reuniting in 2006 following a decades-long hiatus — as a "snapshot of America." Rather than reveling in the Tropicália vets' well-worn themes ("Lets dance, let's party, let's get high," as Dias puts it), it's an album that looks to provoke fans by asking big, philosophical questions about innocence, corruption, life, and death. "It is a new side of the band," Dias says. "We are very happy with it."
Additionally, Fool Metal Jack also puts a newfound emphasis on the English language, a marked difference from Os Mutantes' Portuguese-heavy catalog, including the outfit's self-titled 1968 debut (which recently placed on SPIN's Top 100 Alternative Albums of the 1960s list). "There's so much more in an individual than just the uniform that he's wearing," Dias says, referencing the dying narrator from "Fool Metal Jack." "Those things are basically what humanity is made of. Those are things that we have to think and we have to reflect." And that means searching for some difficult answers.
"Why is that kid dying there?" Dias asks. "Because of oil? Because of richness? Or because of ideals?"
Os Mutantes 2013 tour dates:
April 27 - Austin, TX @ Austin Psych Fest
April 28 - Dallas, TX @ Kessler Theater
April 30 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
May 1 - San Diego, CA @ The Cabash
May 2 - West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
May 3 - Santa Cruz, CA @ Moe's Alley
May 4 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
May 7 - Portland, OR @ Star Theater
May 8 - Seattle, WA @ The Triple Door
May 9 - Boise, ID @ Neurolux
May 10 - Salt Lake City, UT @ TBD
May 11 - Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Café
June 21-23 - North Adams, MA @ Solid Sound Festival 2013