Continuing the theme of the year 2007 from my last post, I’d like to next mention a band I found through a classmate in college. After discussing music with a friend, he immediately suggested this next band, a band he considered his favorite, and a band that had released a new album just a few months prior. I immediately went home, found the alleged album, and fell in love with them as well. Over the next several years, I continued to support the band Portugal. The Man, but still give preference to their older material.
Based in Alaska, Portugal. The Man consists of members John Gourley on vocals/guitar, Zach Carothers on bass/vocals, and Jason Sechrist on drums/vocals. Although their sound has evolved over the years, the band’s earlier sound can be easily described as blues, indie, and experimental rock, a formula of Led Zeppelin meets the Beatles meets The Mars Volta. Their second album “Church Mouth” may not be Portugal. The Man’s most well-regarded, but shows what I believe is the band at their finest.
“Church Mouth” starts off with guns blazing with their self-titled track, containing bluesy guitar scales, bombastic drum beats, and falsetto vocals. This successful formula is used throughout the 40 minute album, yet never feel repetitious or boring. The lo-fi sound that many indie rock bands emulate is present in this album, almost giving off a sound of a live concert. I personally like this attribute of the album, since I feel the band is giving off a bigger sound than the three band members. Having seen this band a few times live, I can attest that the raw rhythm and emotion they have live is bottled up in this album. In fact, in order to recreate the sound on this album, the concert I saw contained as many as five additional musicians on stage to correctly play these songs.
The songs “Bellies Are Full” and “Church Mouth” are the harder songs on this album, featuring blaring rhythm sections, crashing cymbals, and groovy baselines. Adjacent to these are the songs “My Mind” and “Shade,” songs with clean guitar and emotional lyrics. Each song on “Church Mouth” is a masterpiece in its own right, with layered sound effects, drum machines, and tambourine. Lots and lots of tambourine. The band’s lyrics tend to fall on the more political side, so I will not go in-depth on their lyrics to prevent from offending readers. I will, however, highlight one of my favorite lyrics, being the song’s pre-chorus:
“We, people, are dangerous things / A sheltered mind with fears of rings / Fear of time and missing links / We all once were / We all once were / And I’ll walk until my legs are broken” (source)
To say the greatest thing about this album is Gourley’s vocals seems too cliché, so I won’t say that. Instead, I will say the greatest thing is Carothers on the bass guitar and backing vocals. That man can slap the bass! I had the chance to get up close and personal at one of their earlier concerts back in the day, back when they had to set up their own equipment before their set. I got to talk to both Gourley and Carothers as they set up their pedals, and noticed tat Carothers’ bass setup contained more pedals and features. I was in awe when I saw him perform live, since I had never seen a bass player successfully apply such sound effects. His ability and talent is heard throughout this album on the correct headphones, one that features higher bass quality, which I highly recommend when you hear any albums by Portugal. The Man.
I recommend Portugal. The Man’s “Church Mouth” to anyone who enjoys indie rock and blues rock, especially bands like Led Zeppelin, The Mars Volta, The White Stripes, Cage the Elephant, The Dear Hunter, etc. If you like this album, then I recommend your next listen should be their album “Censored Colors.” Basically releasing one album a year, my readers should have no problem finding any music from these guys. Please support this band as they enter the studio for a new album by following them on their website or through Twitter.