British and Brazilian Indie Music of the 1980s

Branco Mello

Branco Mello

Having explored the revolutionary music of Brazil in the late 60s and early 70s, I thought it would be great to take a look at the indie scene in Brazil in the 1980s, and maybe discover some hidden gems.

One of the first 12″ records I had was Ghost Town by the Specials. With hits such as Too Much Too Young and Concrete Jungle demonstrating a social conscious and preoccupation of the issues of the day such as contraception, youth violence and unemployment, as we crossed into the 80s, the Specials left us with this fine swansong.

At school I had been a great fan of the Two Tone craze, following Madness, Bad Manners and The Beat. In Brazil at this moment, students and the youth, Brazil’s lost generation, were increasingly rising up against the dreggs of the murderous dictatorship, which would finally be brought down in 1984.

One band which really exploded onto the scene were Blitz, who while utilising a lot of humour, to my ear sound ahead of the time, and really have a lot of the chaotic rambling charm of The Happy Mondays. Here is the opening track of their first album, The Adventures of Blitz, which launched in 82. This track will take you to a playlist with all tracks.

Brazil was not an open country, and from my knowledge of Brazilian rock and pop in the 80s you can really hear a huge American influence in musical culture. But in amongst these bands were some influenced by the likes of the Cure and the Smiths, both bands of did manage to gain popularity here even if they did not come to play.

One band who do seem to have been influenced by the more jangly riff driven British indie rock aesthetic are Ira!, and here are their best of hits.

By the mid 80s, I was a bit of a mix identity wise, getting into the Cure, New Order, and The Cult, while also starting to really get into Electro via the Street Sounds Electro series which actually sold in Woolworths if you remember those days.

And of course for me one of the biggest mid-80s anthems has to be How Soon is Now, which I still play, and it has lost nothing over the years.

Brazil is a bit of a crazy country right now, and yeah, I guess it always has been. 1985 also saw the band Ultraje a Rigor release Nos Vamos Invadir Sua Praia (Let’s Invade Your Beach). This has quite a range of influences, including for me a little B52s as well as Ska and also Brazilian pop melodies.

The band which reminded me of Ultraje a Rigor were half Man Half Biscuit with classics such as All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit and The Trumpton Riots.

Another band who released their first album in 1986 were Engenheiros do Hawaii (Engineers of Hawaii).

They have a very melodic style with some bass-driven riffs as well, but what is interesting is that they are not copying British Indie wholesale, but inflecting it with a lot of Brazilian flare and sensibility.

The end of the dictatorship marked the end of censorship, and Brazilian music transformed almost overnight with songs which were much more sexually explicit. But as the 80s trundled along, some more rockier bands with heavier sounds blasted out their indignation with where the country was heading, including Legião Urbana (Urban Legion) with their third album in 1987 Que País É Este (What Country is This?).

In 2013 the film Somos tão Jovens (lit. We Were Such Teenagers) was released which is a brilliant biopic of the early life of lead singer Renato Russo. I do not know if this is widely available, but it is well worth watching if you can find it with subtitles. In fact Brazil has made many brilliant films about the lives of the greatest and most controversial artists, but not so many of these are widely known outside of the country.

Also making their mark were rock band Titãs, who while at times being heavy, were also experimental and have a number of musical styles infusing their songs. Maria and I actually met band member Branco Mello in our local pizza restaurant some time ago, as you can see in the photo at the top of this article. Here are their greatest hits:

I took a gap year in 88 when I worked hard to earn some money for a round-the-world adventure. I went to Nottingham University in September 89, and it seemed to me that British music was exploding, with The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans and Blur.

So I was really pleased this week to discover Violeta de Outono (Autumn Violet). Have a listen. While having a slightly retro lilt, if The Stone Roses had released some of these songs they would be massive hits I reckon. What do you think? have a listen to Em Toda Parte (In Every Part) from 1989.

This trip back to the 80s is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of music from Brazil. As you check out some of these bands, I am sure you will discover many more. Violeta de Outono, as well as many others are stillvery much alive and kicking and still gigging, so hopefully I’ll be able to see them in São Paulo soon.

Cheers.

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