“Brazil’s Dylan” is the hack’s tag for Caetano Veloso. Sure, he was the voice of his generation and weathered the attendant rhetorical junk, but while Dylan played at myth, Caetano became the golden boy incarnate for his country’s most influential avant-garde movement, Tropicália. Dylan never held a gun to his own head on television and didn’t go to jail for his art. Revolutionaries, though, are easier to love when pried from history and cramped onto postcards. With massive retrospectives of ’60s Brazilian art at the Bronx Museum and London’s Barbican in 2006, you might think that Caetano was dormant or, for story’s sake, dead.
It doesn’t help that he’s turned into someone the gentrified media pats on the back for his dips into starchy, pan-ethnic art (sample heartache from 2004’s A Foreign Sound: full-orchestra transpositions of no-wave guitar parts, oof). Cê‘s triumph, however, is its simplicity—12 tracks of plaintive, nervy drums-–bass-–guitar rock provided by friends of Caetano’s son, Moreno, who produces. Radical youthfulness might be the influence of his collaborators or his recent breakup; leanness and economy might be the new obstructions a guy needs when he’s on his 40th album. Either way, the brightest, weirdest spots—lags are around but ultimately forgivable—are thrilling. When Caetano crawls up the melody to “Não Me Arrependo,” the ache in his voice defies—1967? That was 40 years ago.