Zuco 103,
Outro Lado
(Ziriguiboom, 2000)

Outro Lado, the debut album by the band Zuco 103, has been released at least a dozen years too late. The album starts out well enough with a song called "Humana." For the first few minutes or so, I was drawn into a light jazzy sound with weak Lisa Stansfield-type vocals. But all too soon, a late '80s random electronica noise starts up, which permeates the rest of the album.

Zuco 103 is a three-piece band fronted by Brazilian lead singer Lilian Vieira. Sometimes the vocals are really quite good. Unfortunately, Lilian has a limited range which she too often goes beyond. German-born Stefan Schmid handles keyboards and programming, while Dutch-born Stefan Kruger plays the drums and also works with programming. After listening to Outro Lado, it makes sense that the band needs two programmers (both named Stefan, no less) to play the drum machines and repetitive electronica chaos.

Instead of sticking to being Lisa Stansfield knock-offs -- which works well enough on songs like "Humana," "Outra Lado," "Fome Total" and "Organmezzo" -- Zuco 103 shows off their various world fusion talents by trying to hit almost every conceivable genre of music. You are bound to like something with the mix of world music, acid jazz, electronica, dance, samba, rap, hip hop, funk and whatever else I missed. Unfortunately, you are bound to be turned off just as much.

"Brazilectro" is an instrumental that at times reminded me of Hiroshima and at other times of the Rippingtons. It does have a few good moments. "Zabumba No Mar," "No Bar do Samba," "Agua Mineral" and "O Homem Da Gravata Florida" showcase Lilian's (lack of) rapping talent. While I thought "scratching" with old records was out of style, it is alive and well on Outro Lado. "Zabumba No Mar" actually conjured up a memory from the '70s. Do you remember a song which I believe was called "Popcorn"? In my opinion, it does not go well with rap.

Songs like "Um Coco," "Mana" and "Cujo & Cuja" make one want to start a petition against drum machines. These songs are less bearable than Zuco 103's rap ones. Why did Zuco 103 have to deviate from the Lisa Stansfield style that works well enough on the rest of the album?

The few half gems on this CD make it a toss up as whether it is worth getting or not. If your music bucks are stretched thin, then pass it up. But if money is burning a hole in your pocket, you want something old ('80s electronica) for the nostalgia, and you don't mind skipping half the songs, then go for it.

[ by Wil Owen ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.