Legião Urbana

Que País É Este

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Legião Urbana's third album, 1987's Que País É Este, was a vault-clearing odds and sods collection containing material written as much as a decade earlier, which, for one reason or another, had never made it onto disc despite frequent live performances. Therefore, in what could very well be seen as a greatest-hits record from a parallel Legião Urbana universe, Que País É Este offers a revealing glimpse into the band's songwriting versatility -- and schizophrenia -- over the course of nine songs. First up, the very uncharacteristic title track (which bitterly asks the age-old question: "What sort of country is this?") can't seem to decide if it's folk or heavy metal. Its pleading acoustic guitar lines belie the raging guitar power chord's distorting just beneath the surface, as well as the vicious desperation behind its politically apocalyptic lyrics. Another relic from singer/songwriter Renato Russo's younger, wilder years fronting the punk band Aborto Eletrico (Electric Abortion) is the next offering, "Conexão Amazônica" (Amazonian Connection), launching off a very Sex Pistols-like riff, but the subsequent, hilarious "Tédio Com um T bem Grande pra Você" (Boredom With a Great Big B for Ya) still manages to immediately one-up its punk rock credentials with pure nihilistic intentions. Similar, unbounded energy pervades ensuing punk anthems like "Quimica" (Chemistry, which updates Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" -- lyrically if not musically) and the less distinct "Mais do Mesmo" (More of the Same), which is about as throwaway as this LP gets. (Most of the above also display somewhat sub-standard production quality, but given the nature of this release, that's almost part of their appeal.) Moving onwards and into other areas of sound: "Depois do Começo" (After the Start) is a fairly forgettable ska number; "Eu Sei" (I Know, aka Sexo Verbal) is a radiant example of Legião Urbana's emotive brand of new wave whose absence on earlier albums is just criminal; and "Angra dos Reis" (named after one of Brazil's most beautiful tropical paradises, ironically picked to house a couple of nuclear power plants!) is a fragile, synth-led meditation, which, in retrospect, was more compelling on paper than on the ears -- despite a passionate vocal performance from Russo. Finally, the rambling epic "Faroeste Caboclo" (Native Brazilian Western) is arguably the grandest and most excessive excursion into folk-styled talking blues ever attempted in Brazilian popular music. A virtual odyssey stretched to nine thrilling minutes of melodic folk and hard rock, its convoluted story line is part fantasy adventure, part heartfelt morality tale -- all genius. Quite simply a treasure trove for Legião Urbana's fans, Que País É Este also cleared the group's creative closet to allow for a new spurt of songwriting that would result in what many consider the band's finest hour, 1989's As Quatro Estações.

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