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Questions of the day: If Timbalada starts sounding a little stale, is it a question of familiarity with the essential sound since there's only so much mileage you can get from a Brazilian pop over drum thunder recipe? Or is it just down to a batch of mediocre songs that essentially go over the same ground? On Mineral, Xexeu returns as a lead vocalist and, and together with Denny, tilts Timbalada more strongly towards the smoothed-out Brazilian pop mainstream. Ninha's first cheerleader frenzy foray on "Água Mineral" clocks in at 42 seconds and he's basically a non-factor here, even if "Carimbolada Soul" is the first song that really registers with intriguing vocal chorus and guitar hooks. The arrival of Patricia Gomes' soulful singing over nice underlying guitar chords on "O So Vem Saindo" is a welcome change of pace, but she's pretty much over and out after the following "Trilha Sonora." But "Hagarrê (Nave 3)" and "Canção Tribal" feel like Timbalada is forcing new sounds or musical elements into their usual context. What once was a natural reaching out seems a little forced here -- "Formigueiro (Nave 1)" shifts between very pop verses and bridge to a hyper quasi-classic metal guitar solo and "Misercórdia Pudim" has a loopy, horn-driven charm that's pretty out there. The closing instrumental, "Hino Do Binfa," sounds like a traditional European brass band tune sans Timbalada drum thunder -- in fact, the Salvador de Bahia Air Force Band seems to be credited as the performers. There are enough flashes to suggest the relative failure of Mineral is a temporary case of flagging inspiration in the songwriting department. After all, Timbalada already defied the odds of a Brazilian drum ensemble, producing several CDs of exciting and inventive pop music -- no reason to think they aren't resourceful enough to do it again.

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