It’s as if the boys of Portugal. The Man have pressed play on summer.
The title track “Plastic Soldiers” is full of heavy synths and acoustic guitars and the lines, “I can’t keep my head up, no I can’t keep my head up” gets the listener really pumped up.
The album segways from “Creep in a T-shirt” and into “Evil Friends”; the title track. “Evil Friends” starts off as dark, mysterious and very typical of Censored Colors, however the song takes a sharp left turn after the first minute, a very pop-rock change between the rhythm guitar work during the choruses and the vocal inflections, creating a sound highly reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys. The addition of Danger Mouse is clear, and the influence of their production plays a major role in the record. You can hear the electronic additions more so then ever before with midi lines in “Modern Jesus” where the lyric “don’t pray for us we don’t need no modern Jesus” is sung in loop. The heavily produced “Hip Hop Kids” with bounding rock guitars, a catchy vocal line and the mantra “we don’t, we don’t” has so many instruments it’s almost overwhelming.
“Atomic Man”, the third single released off the album starts off with driving drums and then the perfect Portugal. The Man guitars are back. Heavily overdriven, and singing along. The production is a bit more stripped away and serves as a reminder to old fans that under all that make up, Portugal. The Man are still themselves.
The highest point in the album occurs with the songs “Sea of Air”and “Waves”. “Sea of Air” begins with simple plucked acoustic guitars, and the beautifully written lyrics “When the timing comes around, I’ll be brave…we got the whole world hanging there in our little sea of air”. The song speaks of suicide, death, and the human existence. It builds in the middle with bass, drums, layering harmonies and acoustic guitars as it climbs and ends in the naked and truthful way it began. “Waves” is a bit more of what we were treated to with songs like “Got It All” and “All Your Light” off In the Mountain In the Clouds. Still true to themselves production takes “Waves” to a new level.
The next few songs, “Holy Roller”, “Someday Believers”, and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” are true Portugal. The Man. The harmonies, the steady bass and drums and songwriting are dead on the sound that Portugal. The Man has created and become known for, and fans will not be disappointed.
“Smile” ends the record with the things that so many people seem to be afraid to say lately. It speaks of how many people hide inside their perfectly constructed worlds. “I don’t wanna talk about the world alright, I just wanna sleep with a smile tonight, I don’t wanna talk about the hungry people…I just wanna smile, smile some more.” The song is perhaps a reaffirmation of the statement “ignorance is bliss.”
Evil Friends is a journey, where the listener is able to follow the change in the band’s creative process and ability to stay true to their roots. Danger Mouse’s addition has definitely added a new and different element to Portugal’s sound and marketability. This perhaps is the album that will allow them, after six studio albums, to break into the world of Top 40. They have come such a long way and are still making their music their own way while continuing to test their own limits. You may no longer be able to predict where this new direction will lead, but big things are happening for Portugal. The Man.
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