By Amy Longsdorf
Portugal. The Man’s bizarrely titled fourth album kicks off with a groove so fat and swampy, you’ll swear it was recorded in Memphis, circa 1967. “The Satanic Satanist” opens with the anti-war anthem “People Say” that builds on that funky riff to become a full-fledged barnburner. “What a lovely day, yeah we won the war,” sings vocalist John Baldwin Gourley. “May have lost a million men but we’ve got a million more.” The rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to that awesome opener but it comes pretty damned close.
Hailing from Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, the quartet is all about mixing and matching its musical influences. Like sonic cowboys, the young scruffs roam the wide-open spaces between Bowie and Curtis Mayfield, Stax, and Pete Seeger.
“The Satanic Satanist” is, by far, the band’s most accessible outing. No song sprawls or twists like the 23-minute progressive epic “It’s Complicated Being a Wizard” from the 2007 EP of the same name. This time around, the tunes are tight, melodic, and full of surface sheen.
With a lyrical focus on all things pastoral, the CD is a welcome update of the hippie aesthetic. Except for the occasional sample or tape loop, the bongo-driven “Lovers in Love” and psychedelic freakout “Everyone is Golden” wouldn’t have sounded out of place forty years ago at Woodstock.
And wait until you get a gander at the pop-up packaging. The CD comes swathed in a brightly colored fold-out sleeve that can be propped up and arranged in any number of eye-catching ways. It’s groovy, man, just like the music waiting inside.
Release date: 7/21/09
Official Site: www.portugaltheman.net
Photos courtesy Portugal. The Man.
[Amy Longsdorf’s entertainment coverage has appeared in Blender, People, the Chicago Tribune, the Toronto Star and Newsday. She doesn’t want to imagine a world without Preston Sturges movies, Stax singles and the music of Bob Marley.]