ALBUM REVIEW: Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends

Evil Friends artwork
Evil Friends artwork

ARTIST Portugal. The Man

ALBUM Evil Friends

LABEL Atlantic

RELEASE DATE 4.6.2013

6.5 | 10

Other than Rihanna, it’s hard to find a band or artist releasing new music each year, like clockwork. But that’s just the case with Alaska’s Portugal. The Man. Since 2006’s debut LP Waiter: “You Vultures!” the band has released six albums of original material (as well as The Majestic Majesty, the acoustic version of their 2009 album The Satanic Satanist). In fact, 2012 was the first year since Waiter that Portugal. The Man did not release an album. During their year off, the guys got together with Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, to record their eighth LP, Evil Friends. The album marks a subtle yet noticeable shift in the band’s sound, a sound the band rides to equally successful and disastrous results to the very end on their 2013 album.

The main problem here is how the songs cancel themselves out due to the shockingly familiar tone in each of the 12 tracks here. The best moments feature some of the group’s most compelling lyrics, while the worst are the work of a band trying to bottle up their successes and sell it as something new. On “Creep In a T-Shirt,” one of the highlights, lead singer John Gourley sings, “Just because I lost it doesn’t mean I want it back,” over a pulsating piano rhythm, ultimately sounding most similar to Foster The People’s hit single “Call It What You Want.” Another standout moment is “Atomic Man,” which features the biting words from Gourley, “After you, hell should be easy.”

Elsewhere, the band wades through similar sonic territories, including opener “Plastic Soldiers” and the title-track, as well as the aimless “Sea of Air.” The best moment comes in the form of “Modern Jesus,” a hypnotic tune featuring the best vocal performance from Gourley here. He sinks into the beat and the chorus is quintessential Portugal. The Man, harkening back to their outstanding “Lay Me Back Down,” as he sings “Don’t pray for us, we don’t need no modern Jesus.” On closer “Smile,” he sings, “I don’t want to talk about the world, alright. I just want to sleep with a smile tonight.” Living is easy with eyes closed, indeed. While some moments here rank up with the group’s best work, a little bit more time in the studio could have helped the band produce a much more memorable work. As it were, Portugal. The Man will most likely have to release another album in 2014 just so they can stay on our minds.

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