Sound — 5
Portugal. The Man fans are probably wondering where they've got to. The prolific psych-rock quartet are usually quick to distribute their free-form ideas, once or twice a year if they can manage it, but it's been a very conventional two years since their last effort "In the Mountain in the Cloud" had its way with us, rolling like a katamari across decades of music and holding onto whatever sounds stuck. One possible explanation for the wait is that they had to secure the services of award-winning producer Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton; a man who makes his living by extracting hit records from strange ideas. Think of his work with Beck and Gorillaz when you imagine new album "Evil Friends" - ignore that one he did with Norah Jones. The impact is not immediately obvious. If you can picture chirpy piano, lo-fi drum machines and fuzzy synths being stuck in a blender, splashed across the canvas and only reluctantly wiped up then you're already halfway there. Burton has a slightly rougher approach to production, however, and isn't afraid to leave a few unsightly specks of paint on the final product. This works nicely for the dirty garage rock of "Hip Hop Kids" and the title track, but the most convincing musical content is piano-led, and the hooks that follow are often at odds with Burton's mixing. The jubilant Primal Scream-isms of "Holy Roller (Hallelujah)" are about the only time when all the elements are pulled together smoothly, but even then the band are only really hitting third gear.
Lyrics — 7
Besides being laid back, apathetic and keen to prove it ("I'm just a creep in a t-shirt, I don't f--king care," "All you hip-hop kids think we give a sh-t ... well, we don't"), John Gourley's lyrics are typically quirky and thought-provoking. He sticks to the upper reaches of his range for the most part, constantly plugged in, constantly engaging and coming up with some lovely chants without betraying the appearance of a guy who just isn't interested.
Overall Impression — 5
For such a forward-thinking band, Portugal. The Man's progression hasn't been as pronounced as it could have been - "Evil Friends" doesn't feel like a confident step in any direction. The style is not unwelcome, the timing is right for summer and fans will still find plenty to enjoy but don't expect to be blown away.