Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends (Album Review)

When it comes to taking an abstract musical approach, combined with a handful of corresponding upbringing – having being raised in some sort of a technological isolation, a log cabin home with hardly any telecommunication devices in the magical winter wasteland of the fringes of Wasilla, Alaska – frontman John Baldwin Gourley has managed to engage oneself completely in creating fresh kaleidoscopic pattern of moods and textures in a song’s rhythm and melody, fashioning the ultimate psychedelic pop music one would ever get to hear in an entire lifetime’s worth of living. With a track record of over seven schizophrenic studio albums, Portugal. The Man has once again graced the hallucinatory musical world with their eighth studio album, Evil Friends, which happens to be thus far their second overall effort under the supervision of Danger Mouse, a producer with a distinct stylistic palette who has his own quirky ways of putting together strands of commercial radio stations with rubbles of hipster college room dormitories.

Evil Friends starts out with a somewhat gentle orchestration of an acoustic guitar and sound effects made possible by a skilled keyboardist, accompanied by softly booming bass and crackling drums in the background – Plastic Soldiers.  “Just because I lost it doesn’t mean I want it back”, a catchphrase one would often find him/herself humming to Creep in a T-Shirt  which places quite a great deal of emphasis in dealing with unconventionality, also another one of Portugal. The Man’s strong suits. Evil Friends experiences a dynamic shift in rhythm as Modern Jesus caves in slowly, with buoyant notes and sonic colors as Gourley’s subversive falsetto serenades the ears with doo-doos and sublime guitar plucking, followed by the addictive Atomic Man. The infamous track Purple Yellow Red and Blue kicks in with a mind-numbing bass run as Gourley hymns “All I wanna do is live in ecstacy, I know what’s best for me” and “I wanna feel, purple yellow red and blue”. The album’s most captivating moments are not found in the catchy, convoluted hooks, but also the most inward usage of anti-religious imagery as a source of self-empowerment. The album comes to a closure with Smile, a more calming and intuitive paean which soothes even the most distraught soul out there.

For a band with an exceptionally wicked set of skills in designing cover arts, Portugal. The Man has definitely returned with a record which would appeal to a slightly more mainstreamed media, given its recent accomplishments with Danger Mouse. Having said that, the band has not failed at all in preserving their peculiar essence in music-making, in fact they have done a remarkable job in bridging, and at the same time transitioning from sonic illogic psychedelic rock to progressive experimental synths without having their music sounding absolutely awkward. Evil Friends is as methodical as it is psychedelic, coming across as an adept, noteworthy album, bringing out the best in the five members who occasionally carry out recordings in their backyards, subway stations, and even road tunnels.

If I may just quote a random YouTube comment on this album, “People will bow to this album.”

Co-Editor’s Rating: 8.3

 Jacy Ong

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." - Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian

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