Released: July 21, 2009
Label: Approaching AIRballoons
By: Eric Garza
The only time it is acceptable to judge a book by its cover is when that book, or album, is Portugal. The Man's latest effort, The Satanic Satanist. From the cover art and packaging to the title itself, this album demands you to give it the attention it deserves, and by the end of these all-too-brief 11 songs (clocking in at just under 35 minutes), you will be glad you stopped by.
If you are familiar with Portugal. The Man, then you are aware of their ever changing sound and their stellar work ethic as musicians. In the span of three years and four albums, Portugal. The Man have gone from post-emo rock to some culmination of artistic-folk indie rock to their current status which fuses classic rock with groove oriented and soulful melodies.
The album opener, "People Say," kicks the journey off with a bluesy guitar riff before the chorus completely steals the show in this groove-oriented song. Here, vocalist John Gourley turns a simple and modest melody into a roaring and truly infectious anthem that quickly makes way into the soulful and moody "Work All Day," which again thrives on the use of a gang vocal chorus. "Lovers in Love" finds the band implementing the use of a synthesizer and electronic back beats in a similar manner to their debut album, providing a jazzier tune streamlined by a melodic chorus that you'll find yourself singing throughout the day.
This album is a culmination of elements and influences. There is psychedelic pomp in tracks like the flowery "Everyone is Golden," where the band dance in the Strawberry Fields that The Beatles once strolled. "Guns and Dogs," "The Home" and "Do You" hone in on a grander scale that summon classic rock acts such as Zeppelin while "The Sun" offers a gospel-like melody reminiscent of Spiritualized that is driven by Gourley's commanding and uplifting falsetto voice. Album closer "Mornings" tops off the album with a beautiful and uplifting song about hope and redemption as Gourley secures that "we'll be just fine."
Although the influences are apparent, Portugal. The Man manage to avoid sounding derivative by maintaining and establishing an original sound. They accomplish distinction through a combination of fuzz guitar effects, unique melodies and Gourley's untouched vocal style. However, when it comes down to it, the songs on The Satanic Satanist are just plain good and provide a linear and pleasant listening experience.
With each track transitioning seamlessly into the next, this album comes and goes quickly and never overstays its welcome. This makes the replay value of the album very high. As soon as Gourley's soulful voice ushers you out at the finale, you feel more than willing to go back to the start to see if there was anything you missed.
As an added bonus to an already solid collection of songs, Portugal. The Man released a companion album called The Majestic Majesty, which is all of Satanist's songs (sans piano ballad, "Let You Down") stripped down to the bone and performed acoustically. If you enjoyed these songs the first time around, I strongly suggest getting your hands on the acoustic renditions, which are equally as good and feel just as refreshing.
With The Satanic Satanist, Portugal. The Man have released their finest and most accomplished album to date. Here's to hoping they continue to progress and evolve with each subsequent release. This album will, as it should, widen Portugal. The Man's fan base while also dividing others, but as Gourley's people say, "we may have lost a million men, but we got a million more."