Danger Mouse has pushed Portugal. The Man to a new level that will be more appealing and accessible to the masses.
Atlantic Records, 2013
8.5 / 10
After taking two years off from their previous yearly release schedule and some seriously well spent time with genius producer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse), Portugal. The Man have released their 2nd album for Atlantic, and it’s undoubtedly their best to date. Prior albums from the Wisalla, AK natives have been good and they have had some commercial success thanks to singles like “So American” off 2011’s In the Mountain in the Cloud and “People Say” off 2009’s The Satanic Satanist and relentless touring. They have not strayed from their slightly darker humorous tones of pop psychedelia, which I am thankful for. I personally adored their first two releases — 2006’s Waiter: You Vultures and 2007’s Church Mouth. The combination of singer John Gourley’s songwriting and Danger Mouse’s production skills have elevated the band to a new level of accessibility while maintaining the band’s identity (for the most part). I believe most listeners will find some enjoyment in Evil Friends.
The album is still recognizable as a Portugal. The Man record despite the trademark Danger Mouse flourishes (probably most identifiable in the opening track “Plastic Soldiers”), and Mr. Burton does well as a personal trainer of sorts for the band, polishing their sounds while respecting the trademarks that have made fans so loyal. It definitely helps that Danger Mouse has had some experience and appreciation of similarly darker yet humorous themes mixed with pop sounds — I know I wouldn’t enjoy the band nearly as much should they turn their backs completely to their “Church Mouth” and “AKA M80 The Wolf” tongue-in-cheek past.
With Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man have grown thematically. Gone yet acknowledged are their lighter and more playful themes. Instead, they have successfully embraced the notions of loss, war, adulthood, despair and acceptance — all beautifully wrapped up in Gourley’s pretty falsetto, some truly lovely music and driven by Danger Mouse’s deliberate pace. There is humor and gloom, they keep their catchy sing-along choruses, and their energy is consistent and contagious. I have easily listened to the album on repeat since its release and can say it is far and away my absolute favorite of theirs, despite my being a legitimate fan of their earlier work and finding some appreciation of their more recent outings. I am even more excited to see them perform these songs live. I really don’t dislike or feel ‘meh’ about any song on the entire album. That’s a first for them for me. Oh, and I NEED to see them play “Atomic Man” and “Creep In a T-Shirt”; I do.
Danger Mouse has pushed the band to a new level that will be more appealing and accessible to the masses without disrespecting their loyalists. I hope to see more from this collaboration with Danger Mouse. What Portugal. The Man has here is a potential hit record that, with some radio play and a little push from Atlantic, could launch them into the stratosphere of success of Phoenix or The Black Keys. The band is that talented, and the album is that damn good.
Purchase: Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends