By: Lauren Walker
Evil Friends is Seductively evil.
Who is Portugal. The Man? And, what kind of music do they make? Two questions I hear frequently (more than I would like to admit), when I talk about my favorite band of the past few years. Two solid questions that pose open ended answers.
To start, they are a band of five from Alaska that got their start in Portland, with front man John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers whom are the only two original members (Ryan Neighbors, former keyboardist, is dearly missed!). When it comes to their sound, its unique. Yes, unique, is the best way to describe it – get over it. I have heard every label of genre associated with them, anywhere from psychedelic rock, indie pop, punk rock and progressive. So if you really need a label, it spans over those four. It’s hard to label a band that has transformed their sound over each album released since 2006. If you start with their first album Waiter: “You Vultures!” and listen to all their albums in procession, there is a casual yet clear change of sound on each album. They started off dark and very punk rock, and have transitioned into a more marketable indie pop sound.
This week marks the release of their 7th studio album Evil Friends, which is their sophomore release with Atlantic Records. A freshly baked batch of 12 songs, this album comes two years after their highly successful In the Mountain In the Cloud with a strong fan following and high anticipation.
Now that P.TM is on a major record label, they added a splash of flash they haven’t had before. Ever heard of Danger Mouse? Well, Danger Mouse is Brian Burton who joined the crew on this album as lead producer. And just who is Danger Mouse/Brian Burton you may ask? He has worked with Gnarles Barkley, Gorillaz and the The Black Keys, just to name a few. And he brings a certain “oooo, ahhhh” factor to the album. For people who aren’t as familiar with P.TM, that will surely boost record sales. His influences are definitely all over this album, while still allowing creative guru John Gourley to leave his traditional stamp on the record. God forbid a major record label ever tries to pull the reigns on John; I personally would not allow this.
Prior to this full album drop, P.TM released music videos for (in order) “Evil Friends,” “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and “Atomic Man,” to generate hype. And in that it did. “Evil Friends,” which the album is named after, has an eerie sound and feel that curates into a upbeat jam with a catchy drum trap and grabbing lyrics such as “its not that I’m evil I just don’t like to pretend, that I could ever be your friend.” We have all thought it right? “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” continues with the evil theme, yet sexified. The track that generated the most excitement before the album, is seductive with a grounded ecstasy ridden beat and tempo. “Atomic Man” brings back their punk flair with a touch of pop that has hooked fans for years. These three songs really were a great taste of the full entrée that is Evil Friends.
The whole album has a distinct theme of ‘Evil,’ which I can truly say is something new to this band. All 6 of their previous albums are great in their own right, but none have ever had such delicate consistency that this album demonstrates. John Gourley has never shied away from mentioning religious aspects such as God, Jesus, Heaven and Hell and he takes it to a fabulously artistic level here. Not one song goes without a reference to faith in some aspect. It also wouldn’t be a Portugal. album without a shred of political civil rights references that is saturated in “Waves.” In closing, some stand out lyrics that I feel wrap up this album and band impeccably, are from the standout track “Modern Jesus”:
“Don’t pray for us. We don’t need no modern Jesus, to roll with us. The only road we need is never givin’ up. The only faith we have is faith in us.”
And faith in Portugal. The Man is what I have. Don’t be just a fool (get it?!) and do yourself a favor and become familiar with P.TM, if you aren’t already, and head over to iTunes to snag a copy this record. You wont be disappointed. I swear on John Gourley’s moustache.