In today’s ‘revival of everything’ atmosphere, one style that was certain to come back was psychedelica, one of the biggest sounds of the sixties & seventies. But psychedelica has always been a style harder-than-most to enjoy (at least when you’re not high…). So the only psych to really boom in the twenty-first century has been psych-lite, such as Portugal. The Man on their major label debut, In the Mountain In the Cloud.
After the grungier, alt-punk psychedelica of 2007’s Church Mouth (QRO review), the Alaskan-born act (same town as that ex-governor…) polished their sound on three more releases (one a year, plus a bonus digital acoustic LP) before moving to Atlantic Records. On Mountain, it’s easy to see why Atlantic picked up Portugal, as they’ve got a listener-friendly psychedelica akin to Oracular Spectacular, the record that saw MGMT (QRO live review) jump into the big-time (When the word “kids” is sung on “Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs)” on the back side of Cloud, the comparison is unmistakable, even if it’s just a poor man’s MGMT). It’s an accessible album, even if its psychedelica never gets truly great. Opener “So America”, “Floating (Time Isn’t Working My Side)”, and more are the kind of psych that doesn’t put off, but welcomes in – a sixties attitude, not a seventies one. The major shift with Mountain is higher psych-vocals from singer/guitarist John Gourley, which unfortunately isn’t a plus, as they get kind of played out and grating as the record goes on.
In the Mountain In the Cloud isn’t going to blow anyone away with its psychedelica, and it’s not meant to. It’s psychedelica leavened for today’s less psych-friendly wider audience.