Engenheiros do Hawaii (Engineers from Hawaii) are a Brazilian rock band which started in the 1980s. In the year 1990, still with its original line-up – Humberto Gessinger (vocals and bass), Augusto Licks (guitar) and Carlos Maltz (drums) – the band released its most commercially successful record, called O papa é pop (The pope is pop). Pop culture is the theme of the record, and also the content of it, from the title to the arrangements of most tracks, which differ from the more rock beat from previous works. In O papa é pop there are more electronic elements, combined to the traditional “guitar, bass and drums”. In some moments, one can find references to progressive rock, of which Gessinger was quite fond of.
The song “O Exército de um Homem Só, I” (One Man Army, I) opens the record, and is one of its successful singles, showing from the very beginning the previously mentioned electronic influence. Next is maybe the most notorious track on the album (in the sense that it’s very well known even outside of the group of fans of the band), a new version of “Era um garoto, que como eu, amava os Beatles e os Rolling Stones” (Era un ragazzo che come me amava i Beatles e i Rolling Stones), a song written by Italians Franco Migliacci and Mauro Lusini in 1966 and previously translated and released in Brazil by the band Os Incríveis. The lyrics talk about the Vietnam war and the loss of youth. Track 3 is “O Exército de um Homem Só, II” (One Man Army, II), keeping the military theme of the first two tracks. The drums set the time with a beat that resembles army bands.
“Nunca mais poder” (‘Never being able again’, or ‘Never having the chance again’, depending on the interpretation), which comes next, openly goes into the pop culture issue, relating past and present, longevity and immediacy. There’s a certain lack of instrumental pattern here – except for the drums, which rests pretty much unchanged throughout the song. Other than that, the instruments shift in a weird manner, quite to the style of some of Pink Floyd’s craziest – in a good way – songs (not that I mean to compare the two bands). The fifth track is “Pra ser sincere” (To be honest), one of the songs that elicit most passionate responses from fans during the band’s concerts; a romantic ballad which speeds up to an energetic ending. What was the A-side of the record ends with “Olhos iguais aos seus” (Eyes like yours), possibly the most modest song in the album, despite the interesting lyrics.
The B-side starts with the title-track “O papa é pop”, until today one of the bands most popular songs. As should be expected, there are many pop song elements in this one, which works as kind of a summary of the album’s concept. It’s valid to stress the massive use of backing vocals that spice it up a little more. “A violência travestida faz seu trottoir” (something like ‘Violence in disguise walks around’) opens the most ominous parto f the CD, with more sullen tones which continue into “Anoiteceu em Porto Alegre (Night fell in Porto Alegre). Here the bass becomes more important to the songs. “Ilusão de Ótica” (Optical Illusion), last track of the original LP is a more upbeat song, going back to the pop arrangements. In the CD, there’s an extra track, “Perfeita Simetria” (Perfect Symmetry), which brings the same melody of “O papa é pop”, but turned into a slower romantic ballad with a crescendo.
Maltz was never a really good drummer, and Licks’ and Gessinger’s talents in guitar and bass are left in the background here. The “let’s be pop” game is what’s in focus, and due to that the electronic sounds get more attention. Gessinger’s famous word games in lyrics are also not present with the same intensity. “O papa é pop” is a good album, undoubtedly, and represents the band’s disposition to change, which certainly collaborated to make the EngHaw one of Brazil’s longest-running bands. But even though it’s competent in many aspects, it’s not the band’s peak in any of them.
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