Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tom Zé: Jogos de Armar [Trama, 2001]
Too bad Luaka Bop passed on this 2000 album--the French BMG version includes translations, and an English trot would have been nice. Nevertheless, the music speaks so clearly in Zé's out-front avant-pop language that words would be trimmings, as they aren't on Luaka Bop's 1998 Zé push, Fabrication Defect. Zé is my favorite Brazilian because insofar as he's subtle--in the harmonies mostly--he's obvious about it, and usually he's anything but. You can hear those herky-jerk beats on found and fabricated instruments, those sudden stops and starts, those jingle-jungle tunes, the energy if not groove that propels everything forward regardless. On this record he has a lot of fun with choruses, predominantly female, which carry the crucial tunes, often in humorous timbres and combinations. A bonus CD includes many of the tracks from which he constructed these songs, supposedly so you can create others just as valid. I appreciate the impulse, but I doubt you'll get there. A