Portugal. The Man

Posted August 21, 2008 in

John Baldwin Gourley comes from Alaska, which doesn’t mean a fucking thing to you probably. It’s not of minor consequence, however: Here’s a white dude who grew up with dog sled mushers for parents in a log cabin with no telephone and a head full of science fiction. Things are far wilder up there than in the lower 48. Maybe the existential power-hymns that his Portugal. The Man produce is inevitable when given this context, but they only recently came to this home sound. 2007’s Church Mouth was rock; 2008’s Censored Colors (out in September) is elegiac soul, by turns pop and dirge, both Flaming Lips epiphanic and soaring. Weirdly, it feels like it’s always been. As an indie buzzband, such an apotheosis will not go underscored, but when Gourley’s tensile voice gets into the chandeliers with impossible pitch—more choired and disquieting than a Jeff Buckley, less cerebral than a Cinjun Tate—it’s sort of like Motown through stained glass. (Or something like that.) There’s still some stomp, still a bit of buffo, but only in mood—this is what they’ve always meant to get at, the ore beneath the surface since the debut Waiter “You Vultures!”. Sample lyric from the song “Colors”: “All the needy still need/and all the losers still lose/all the preachers still preach/but they ain’t bringin no change.” This is followed by a chorus of “I’m not afraid to die/’cause all these colors will change.” It’s a pretty sincere thing to say, and for some reason you can’t help but think that Gourley is dead serious. (Chuck Mindenhall)


Portugal. The Man, Rx Bandits, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground at the Glass House, 200 W. 2nd Street, Pomona, (909) 865-3802. Doors at 7pm, $15 at door


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