Posted on August 14th, 2009 (2:29 pm) by Kevin Lopez

At long last, the eagerly awaited fourth studio album from Portugal. The Man has arrived. There has been considerable hype in anticipation of its release: news of a leaked version circulated around the web and found its way to frontman John Gourley, who expressed excitement concerning the eagerness of listeners wanting to hear the upcoming record, yet also some understandable frustration. However, it’s easy to hear why people were so excited. This album’s got soul. The fantastically bizarre watercolor painting on the front cover (painted by none other than Gourley himself) serves as a sort of preview of the music inside the packaging. Abstract orchestrations, funky basslines, bluesy guitars, impassioned vocals, and in-the-pocket drumming all combine in an homage of sorts to the movement of soul.

Almost every song here gives off a feel-good vibe, even those with heavier lyrical content. The album is just begging to be played by the beachside. It’s summer in a nutshell. Just listen to the first track, “People Say,” and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Gourley speaks of the mortal costs of war, yet reassures that “It’ll be alright.” What better way to find relief than by listening to Gourley’s passionate crooning?

“Work All Day" turns the mood from hopeful to oppressive. A heavy, raw drum set drives the piece, while the strained guitar line struggles to be heard over the din. One can feel the frustration and contempt in Gourley's lyricism and in the behind-the-beat nature of the instrumentation. "Work all day ... work all night" Gourley laboriously repeats, evoking the frustration that accompanies a mundane and thoroughly monotonous daily routine.

The next few tracks provide an effective contrast between several genres. "Lovers in Love" features funkadelic, palm-muted guitar strumming along with the pop of bongos. "The Sun" layers hip-hop vocalization from Gourley over half-time balladry, providing an interesting rhythmic syncopation. "The Home" feels just as funky as it's predecessors on the album. "The Woods" ventures into the unknown, beginning with an Arabic belly-dance vibe before giving way to drifting, almost hesitant, vocals. You wonder what could possibly be around the corner, and then "Guns and Dogs" bridges the gap with woes about the lurking dangers and inherent violence in an urban metropolis.

Distorted guitar chords bring some much-needed rock to the funk-fest in "Do You" and "Everyone is Golden." With all the soulful grooving going on during the major portion of the album, a little bit of rock becomes a worthy and welcome addition.

The album concludes on a somber note. Gourley solemnly expresses regret, repeating "I let you down." The instrumentation is sparse; the feeling is lonely. The band tops the melancholic mood with "Mornings," which relates (behold, a play on words) the mourning of "the end"; the end of what exactly, is unclear. The song is reminiscent of a tune that might bittersweetly play over the closing credits of summery surfer flick. Gourley concludes that "we'll be just fine," but his confidence withers as he adds, "I don't believe."

This album could readily be described as "funky fresh," with its soulful stylings and invigorated melodies. The qualms I have with the record are few: several of the songs feel too short, most of them clocking in at around 2-4 minutes, and the mid-tempo vanilla funk can lose its flavor after a while. Regardless, this album goes above and beyond the standard cut of rock and carries itself well as a bluesy entity. These guys definitely know what they're doing, but the road to tonal evolution is a gradual one. Either way, this devilish offering is well worth the indulgence.

Track List:
1.People Say (2:59)
2.Work All Day (2:59)
3.Lovers in Love (3:14)
4.The Sun (3:02)
5.The Home (2:57)
6.The Woods (3:12)
7.Guns and Dogs (2:45)
8.Do You (2:55)
9.Everyone is Golden (3:46)
10.Let You Down (2:17)
11.Mornings (4:39)

Portugal. The Man: The Satanic Satanist
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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