As a non-Portugese speaker, I always find it a little difficult to get a handle on Tom Zi's music -- no surprise, for an artist who famously said, "I don't make art; I make spoken and sung journalism." But his latest, an "unfinished operetta" called "Estudando O Pagode," is a particularly inaccessible work. The 70-year-old Zi is more of an intellectual and a political activist and revolutionary than he is a musician in some ways, although he has made some brilliant music in the past, and on this album the music takes even more of a backburner than usual to the content of the story, a tragic and sometimes absurd tale that focuses on the repression of women. Even the musical decisions here are pointedly political -- the album is performed in the "pagode" style of Brazilian folk music (although dressed up with plenty of synthesized squeaks and given a manically postmodern, almost Zappa-esque treatment), which Zi says he chose because it's looked down on by the middle class. The liner notes for this song (too strange to be written by anyone by Zi himself) state: "Tom Zi, representing the feminine side of men at the WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) convention, gives a speech about the subtlety of women before the paradoxical mirror of time."