It’s no surprise that Portugal. The Man have gotten successful. Their psych-rock is light enough on the actual psychedelics to appeal to wide audiences, yet still keep a singular nature, especially in their lauded live shows (QRO live review). The jump to major label status with 2011’s In the Mountain. In the Cloud (QRO review) allowed them to tap further into that bigger potential, and follow-up Evil Friends keeps it up.
Portugal. The Man is not the second coming of Captain Beefheart strangeness or far out trippin’, but rather a rock band with a penchant for psych elements. They can do a psych-sly (opener “Plastic Soldiers”), a bit funky (the following “Creep In a T-shirt”), or even go catchy (“Atomic Man”). They can stretch all the way from garage-pop title track to the spacey closer “Smile”. And even in the more straight-up psych-rock tunes, singer/guitarist John Gourley can sing about current events – sometimes preachy, yes (“Modern Jesus”), but also sometimes not: “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” is from the wanna-be reality celebrity mindset, and the darker “Waves” might be one of the best artistic takes on climate change (though the only other one you can think of is Waterworld…).
The darker nature to “Waves” brings to mind Mountain’s great single “All Your Light”, and like Mountain, Evil Friends shines brightly in singles like “Waves” and “Plastic Soldiers”, but less so in other parts (there was no need for the acoustic sing-along, which turns Beatles-big in the middle, “Sea of Air”). Maybe someday Portugal. The Man’s creative output will finally fully catch up with their popular appeal, but they are slowly getting there.