We’ve had a week now to sink our teeth into the eighth album from American group Portugal. The Man, an outfit I’ve been listening to now for almost a decade. Their evolution from 2009’s The Satanic Satanist to 2013’s Evil Friends is a remarkable one – seeing the group catapulted from unknowns to one of the biggest bands in the world, aided in part by the commercial success of their collaboration with Danger Mouse for their 2013 release, though ultimately proving the old adage that if you stick at something long enough, eventually it will pay off.
Perhaps it’s of little surprise then that it took so long for the group to release their follow up, Woodstock, in what has been the group’s longest break between records since their inception. That’s the interesting thing about success – it often keeps you on the road, and out of the studio. Though in this case, it also afforded the group the luxury of time, with Woodstock the band’s second go at the LP during the almost four year period. The record isn’t quite the instant commercial charmer in the way that Evil Friends was; rather it sees the band balancing their commercial requirements with their need for layered, intricate and diverse music.
Some songs, like “So Lonely”, come off slightly centre of the road, when – with the inclusion of The Pharcyde‘s Fatlip, you might have expected it to be a highlight of the record. Then there’s “Easy Tiger”, which throws you off with its EDM influence but is one of the highlights; a reminder that the band are strongest when they challenge themselves and explore sounds outside their usual comfort zone. Meanwhile, tracks like “Feel it Still” (which could have easily sat on Evil Friends) and “Tidal Wave” are among the best of the band’s career, and “Live in the Moment” amongst their most commercial – if divisive for and. Meanwhile I can’t get enough of the production on “Keep On”, and album closer “Noise Pollution” feels as much like a Gorillaz track as it does a Portugal recording, and with the vocals of actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Scott Pilgrim), leaving the album on a strong note. It’s a mixed bag but then again, a Portugal record historically has been.
Given how many people they collaborated with for this record, this fact was only more pronounced. Though fans may not immediately warm to it as they have with their last two gems, and a couple of the middle of the road tracks may cause distraction, give it some time – the more I listen, the more I enjoy it. It’s not a record you should be quick to dismiss, and its one that sits proudly amongst a strong catalogue of music from one of America’s finest groups.
Review Score: 7.8 out of 10
Woodstock is out now through Warner Music Australia.