Taking the stage at Oracle Area for night one of LIVE 105 Not So Silent Night 2017 is Portugal. The Man!
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As we quickly approach the halfway point of 2017, the world continues to burn like an out-of-control dumpster fire. Wait, that’s not quite fair to say. The world continues to burn like an avalanche of flaming biohazard material sliding down a mountain of used needles into a canyon full of rat feces. But there happens to be a speck of good news in between those glowing red embers of scat and toxic waste: Portugal. The Man has a new album.
Yes, a new album called Woodstock. And fire up your goddamn air-horn sound effect because it’s the best, hypest, dopest, most-relevant-to-aspirational-millennials-who-are career-conscious-but-also-believe-in-collective-positive-change album of the year. And we don’t say that just because 2017 is the year of low expectations. We say it because it’s actually a great album. Bah-bah-bah-baaaaaaahhhhhhhhh, motherf**ker.
If you’re scoring at home, Portugal. The Man’s last album came out over three years ago. That’s a long gap for a band who’ve dropped roughly an album a year since they became a band. And in true, prolific band fashion, they spent almost every minute since 2013 working on an album called Gloomin + Doomin. They created a shit-ton of individual songs, but as a whole, none of them hung together in a way that felt right for the band.
Then John Gourley, PTM’s lead singer, made a trip home to Wasilla, Alaska (home of Portugal. The Man’s biggest fan, Sarah Palin), and two things happened that completely changed the album’s trajectory. First, John got some parental tough love from his old man, who called John on the proverbial carpet or dogsled or whatever you put people on when you want to yell at them in Alaska. “What’s taking so long to finish the album?” John’s dad said. “Isn’t that what bands do? Write songs and then put them out?” Like fathers and unlicensed therapists tend to do, John’s dad cut him deep. The whole thing started John thinking about why the band seemed to be stuck on a musical elliptical machine from hell and, more importantly, about how to get off of it.
Second, fate stuck its wiener in John’s ear again when he found his dad’s ticket stub from the original 1969 Woodstock music festival. It seems like a small thing, but talking to his dad about Woodstock ’69 knocked something loose in John’s head. He realized that, in the same tradition of bands from that era, Portugal. The Man needed to speak out about the world crumbling around them.
With these two ideas converging, the band made a seemingly bat-shit-crazy decision: they took all of the work they had done in the previous three years and they threw it out.
It wasn’t easy and there was the constant threat that the band’s record label might have them killed, but the totally insane decision paid off. With new, full-on, musical boners, the band went back to the studio—working with John Hill (In the Mountain in the Cloud), Danger Mouse (Evil Friends), Mike D (Everything Cool), and longtime collaborator Casey Bates (the one consistent producer since the first record). In this newfound creative territory, the album that became Woodstock rolled out naturally from there. Now would be another good time for you to play that air-horn sound effect.
Ok, let’s stop wasting time and get into the songs.
First, there’s “Feel It Still,” an anti-anthem about a clueless rebel wandering aimlessly through the world. Before the release, the band jokingly referred to it as “The Long Awaited Global Smash Hit.” And then it became their most popular single to date—climbing to the top of Billboard’s Adult Alternative chart. Go fucking figure.
The next tracks of note are “Rich Friend” and “Keep On”—a mid-album duo of songs about the tendency of the old and moneyed to leech off of the young and hungry. Or maybe John’s still working through issues with his dad. Tough to tell.
Toeing the line between homage and “I’m too lazy to write my own shit,” is “So Young.” With a lyric lifted right out of “Live Forever” by Oasis, the song is a nod to the English band’s early work—a key influence for P.T.M. during their formative years.
Finally, there’s the intense “Noise Pollution” trying to reconcile the difference between what the modern world promised us and what we got. We were sold on a more peaceful, empathetic, knowledgeable, and connected world. And we ended up with . . . well, whatever the opposite of that is.
Which brings us back to that flaming mountain we were talking about. It’s central to what’s going on with this album. Woodstock is an album that—with optimism and heart—points at the giant pile and says, “Hey, this pile is fucked up!” And if you think that pile is fucked up too, you owe it to yourself—hell, to all of us—to get out there and do something about it.
Oh, and you owe it to the band to buy this album, because, as we mentioned, it’s awesome.