Arnaldo Antunes

Iê Iê Iê

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Who says intellectuals don't know how to have fun? Try telling that to poet, artist, singer, songwriter, and pope of the São Paolo avant-garde Arnaldo Antunes, who on Iê Iê Iê, pays homage to the '60s Brazilian beat scene, named after the Portuguese translation of the Beatles' war cry "Yeah Yeah Yeah." Widely acclaimed as one of the best Brazilian releases of 2009, this is a very peculiar tribute album. For one thing, it exclusively features originals by Antunes, rather than covers. Sure, there are plenty of thick melodic basses, handclaps, and surf guitar lines, and Antunes and his friends are having a ball trying to smuggle an "aaaah aaah" background chorus into as many songs as possible, but the truth is that none of these songs would have looked out of place on any other Antunes record. The only thing that makes Iê Iê Iê a little different is its overall stylistic consistency, as Antunes albums tend to be rather eclectic. Other than that, the tribute concept is arguably no more than an excuse for Antunes and his pals to don outlandish two-colored suits in their public appearances (check the videos online), and for a chic Pop Art album cover. Regardless of stylistic concerns, Antunes' low, understated voice and terrific texts that smartly balance postmodern irony and romantic wonder inevitably dominate the album (and, surely, both traits are miles apart from the '60s standards of cheerful singing and naive lyrics), which pretty much defines Iê Iê Iê as nothing but a trademark Antunes record. That, anyway, is still great news, as he has been on a creative roll since at least the mid-'90s, and showing no signs of fatigue whatsoever. Quite the contrary, he absolutely revels in this alleged retro-costuming, offering one of his most engaging -- and certainly most enthusiastic -- sets, penned by himself or in collaboration with the likes of Liminha, Ortinho, Marcelo Jeneci, his old Titãs' pal Paulo Miklos, and of course his beloved Tribalistas' partners Marisa Monte and Carlinhos Brown. There are a few throwaways, as is bound to happen in a gleeful record like this, but even those are at worst immediately winsome. The rest, and by this I mean a good 80-percent of the album, are pure gems by the best Brazilian songwriter of his generation. "A Casa é Sua," "Longe," "Vem Cá," "Envelhecer," "Luz Acesa," "Meu Coração," these are all great Antunes standards, but the irrepressible single "Invejoso," a character portrait of someone who lives envying his colleagues and neighbor's lives that is as funny as it is true, is Iê Iê Iê's perfect calling card. While not as ambitious as other Antunes' works, such as his undisputed masterpiece Saiba, Iê Iê Iê is that rare instance of an album that is simultaneously a charmer, a grower, and a keeper.