I don’t know how these guys keep doing it, but again, Portugal. The Man has brought forth another important album in music. ‘Define important’ you might be saying, and I shall. I feel like there has always been imagery and the state of our society in music, but not quite like this.
On a lyrical level John Gourley has perfected the method of capturing a folkish outlook on the world around him; and everyone he comes across. The subject matter always varies from album to album, but again, the method is something that’s very unique when it comes to his outlook.
The band just released their latest album, American Ghetto; and while I had no idea what to expect, there was a gut feeling that it would have me running tracks back to see what’s really going on.
The first single (and intro track) off the album, The Dead Dog wastes no time at the holier-than-thou’s of America. I was surprised yet relieved at how straight forward the lyrics were, right off the bat. While the song is sharp, it doesn’t point fingers without a solution; which is to chill out. Musically, you can feel the gritty drums straight from the start, which I’m happy to hear, are a constant on the album. The echoing horns and old school sci-fi noises lingering in the background easily branded this song a PTM track.
My second favorite song was the 8th track, Do What We Do. I’m a big fan of when a band can successfully harmonize together over a chorus, and PTM have mastered this difficult practice. Also, John has a firm grasp on the method of making your voice more than just that; and rather into another instrument to the ensemble when he echos into the chorus with the rest of the band. Think, Cedric of the Mars Volta. Furthermore, this is by far one of Zach Carothers’ best performances on bass. If you’ve seen them live, you already know how he’s a monster on it; so seeing him groove to this track should have you getting your cameras set to video mode.
But the best track on the album (and one of my top ten by the band period) for me was track 7, The Pushers Party. First let’s talk about on a lyrical level. For the old fans, you know that there’s an abundant amount of imagery in John’s lyrics, and for me at least, this told me the story of a snow covered port town, where the navy boys are getting’ funky with the lovers at a dance party; enjoying the (most likely) Alaskan sunlight at midnight. Musically, Ryan Neighbors is holding it down with Middle Eastern sounds on the keys, with percussion layered on top. Mr. Gourley is getting his John Frusciante on with the guitar in the intro, before the beat drops with Jason and Zach. Zach keeps it really down low on the bass, keeping it extra funky (by the way, you can’t help but nod your head to it); while Jason Sechrist holds down the rhythm on the drums, with flutes covering his back right before the first chorus (keep an ear out for those two sick cymbal hits too). It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks for Jason, who just plain keeps it loose, especially at the harmonized chorus at about 2:56 and beyond.
I’ve listened to this album several dozen times, and I think that this is another successful experiment for the band. As I stated before, this is a band that comes out with some new flow and flavor on every album. That’s why I love Equal Vision Records, because their creative bounds aren’t as restricted as some of the other labels. I feel like I want to make a movie and score it with a few tracks from this album; if only to pay respect to the time taken for the imagery of the lyrics. The story pretty much tells itself in my opinion.
The band is on tour in the US right now, so check the tour dates after you go out and get the album (which by the way, the deluxe version with the lyric/art book is worth it). Personally, I won’t get a chance to catch up with the band until Coachella 2010, in mid April…which reminds me of writing a certain pregame article, if you remember from the one I did last year.
That’s all for now kids; you have your goal for today: American Ghetto.
Until next time my friends,