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Album Review: Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends

Out of Portland, Oregon, their adopted home from the polar opposite of their native Alaska, Portugal. The Man have not only changed their surroundings, but their sound. From first forming as a post-hardcore under the name of Anatomy of a Ghost, to a new line-up and a new name, Portugal. The Man have created a refreshing sound – one that’s balanced between psychedelia and pop. After signing with Atlantic Records in 2009 and releasing their highly acclaimed seventh album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, Portugal. The Man have returned with the Danger Mouse-produced, Evil Friends.

Evil Friends‘ – the first single to be released from the record, and its title track – has already captivated the five-piece’s loyal fanbase, who’ve watched them slowly develop over the years. Like most of their tracks, it’s structured on the unique and surprisingly high vocals of John Gourley, combined with the band’s fast guitar strums and amazing bass lines. It’s most suited for late night adventures of mischief that go completely wrong, leading to the end of friendships or perhaps a fight or two, something that’s attested to through its repetitions of “I could never be your friend, I never wanted to be friends.”

While it purveys much of the same territory as ‘Evil Friends’, ‘Purple Yellow Red & Blue‘ sets sail for funkier waters, contemplating the dreams of kids of the digital age before reality comes crashing down. The lyrics are a tad simple and generic, leaving the majority of the track reliant on the striking instrumental beat for musical sustenance.

Atomic Man‘, meanwhile, is fixed around ingenious guitar sounds and a beat that slightly resembles Devo’s ‘Whip It’. It exudes feelings of regret and uneasiness and tells a story of bitterness for making the wrong decision and the inevitable dissatisfaction that follows: “After you, I don’t know what I believe in/ after you, hell should be easy. After you, I don’t know what to believe/ hell should be easier”.

Plastic Soldiers’ – the opening track on Evil Friends – and collides headlong with the sound cultivated on In the Mountain in the Cloud. Compared to that record, proceedings here feel far less deliberate, choosing a more simplistic and exciting approach. It’s a completely different approach from their earlier work, but it’s an effective one nonetheless.

- Jess Edwards

Evil Friends is available now on Atlantic.

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