Portugal. The Man

Church Mouth

Written by: PP on 31/10/2007 05:11:19

When Portugal. The Man released their debut album "Waiter: 'You Vultures'" early last year, I found their highly experimental approach to indie rock peculiar to say the least, but nothing to write home about in a few months time. Thus I rated that album 7, and I still stand by that claim. Then a few months ago, I wrote a review about their ten song 'EP' "It's Complicated Being A Wizard", rating it 9½ out of 10 while proclaiming it to be the best indie/electronica album I've heard to date. I still stand by that claim as well. But that, my dear reader, leads to a problem about their sophomore album "Church Mouth", a problem which they failed to solve in my ears.

You see, "It's Complicated Being A Wizard" was some of the most experimental music you can imagine. Each time you thought you'd heard it all the band would pop in another electronic sample or insert an unheard dimension into their music. Its experimental beauty kept you surprised from front to back, which was a large contributor for its appeal.

On "Church Mouth", the experimentation in no way comes even close to the same kind of musical genius.

Instead, it sounds much more like their debut album. The songs are groovier and more straightforward (though bearing in mind it IS Portugal. The Man we are talking about here), which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, that was the exact purpose of the EP: to allow the band to experiment and push the limits of their soundscape further than you could imagine without pissing off their fanbase in case it went horribly wrong. But coming off a masterpiece of a record like that into a simpler verse-bridge-chorus format just feels like a let down. The memory of being hypnotized by "Opal Magic" or "Ruby Magic" is still fresh, so listening to the more guitar driven (or perhaps I should say louder?) side of Portugal. The Man just isn't as interesting as I remember it being.

That being said, it's not like "Church Mouth" is a bad album. The band's trademark electronic samples and odd drumbeats and sounds are still present, just not in as great extent as on the "Wizard" EP. Some songs like "Children" start off drawing parallels to great 70s rock icons like Led Zeppelin both in the vocal and the guitar department, only to jump off to a distinct White Stripes comparison only moments after. And this all, as is suitable for a band with as much creative genius as Portugal. The Man, is of course hidden underneath the band's own layered surface of electronic samples, but close enough for the listener to notice who their influences were for this record.

All in all, "Church Mouth" lacks something that "Waiter: You Vultures" had that I just can't put my tongue on. There's clear artistic progression evident throughout the record, but I feel like they've sacrificed a tad bit too much of the oddity that hyped up their debut album in 2006. In any case, "Church Mouth" definitely comes nowhere near "It's Complicated Being A Wizard" EP.

Download: Sugar Cinnamon
For the fans of: The Sound Of Animals Fighting, As Tall As Lions, Led Zeppelin, White Stripes
Listen: Myspace
Release date 24.07.2007
Fearless Records

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