Ultraje a Rigor

Crescendo

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Brazil's Ultraje a Rigor were mostly firing blanks by the time of their third album Crescendo. Their first disc, 1985's Nós vamos Invadir sua Praia, had been the model of witty, rock & roll economy, but 1987's Sexo!! had been under-whelming to say the least, revealing the band's limitations to be twice as thorny a challenge the second go-round. And yet, incredibly, Crescendo sunk even further, even as it actually found Ultraje a Rigor attempting to move forward, hence the title's translation: growing. Of course, its artsy pretensions, no matter how honest (see the vertiginous, backwards-sung opening title track), were virtually doomed to be overlooked by the band's unsophisticated audience, who, if they hadn't already moved on from both Ultraje and, well, puberty, were probably hoping for the same clever but flippant ditties of old. Some of these were on hand here, but the likes of "Ricota," "Querida Mamãe," and "Coragem" are positively awful, and only "Volta Comigo" and "O Chiclete" (a reworking of an ancient song written by original guitarist and eventual Ira! leader Edgard Scandurra) somewhat acquit themselves. Even worse is the prevalence of aimless, semi-instrumentals like "Ice Bucket" or the hyper-driven nursery rhyme of "A Constituinte" -- glaring filler material all. Credit bandleader Roger Moreira for at least trying to evolve in hopes of extending the group's fast-declining career; but unsatisfying stabs at songwriting maturity like "Laços de Família" or "Crescendo II -- A Missão" (both third-rate examples of high-brow Brazilian pop masters the Titãs), and experimental art rock vignettes like "Secretários Eletrônicos" and "Maquininha" simply failed to impress. The album's only saving grace comes in the form of first single, "Filha da Puta" (Son of a Bitch), which scored respectable radio play despite requiring a safely "bleeped" version to appease censors. In what ultimately turned out to be the final bona fide classic of Ultraje a Rigor's career -- its tongue-in-cheek, all-purpose ranting perfectly grasped Brazilians' day-to-day struggles with adversity, government incompetence, and mind-numbing bureaucracy. Unfortunately, this highlight notwithstanding, Crescendo was a disastrous outing, something made evident by the subsequent band disintegration left in its wake.