Sound — 9
There is never a shortage of creativity in Portugal. The Man, although the avenues taken to relay that creativity have been somewhat different from album to album. The Alaskan natives always manage to make each individual album a distinctly unique entity, and their latest release The Satanic Satanist is no exception. The title alone is an intriguing factor, but it makes the band's output all the more fascinating because the general theme at times feels all about love. Messages or concepts aside, Portugal. The Man's music continues to try out new formats and genres, with the addition of rich harmonies and unusual instrumentation aiding in this goal. On the band's sophomore record Church Mouth, you could certainly hear certain epic, classic rock influences coming though. This time around, things are a bit more laid-back and happy-go-lucky. That's not to say there is not some amazing musicianship on the record (particularly with the keyboard/Moog work), but it just takes a different form. While the 1970's do come across in certain moments, The Satanic Satanist is driven by a mellower, more contemporary feel than previous works. At times you can't help but hear some similarities to other bands, but there is enough going on within each Portugal. The Man song that those instances are fleeting. The main example comes in The Sun, which features a chorus that sounds strikingly like Oasis' Don't Look Back In Anger. On a completely different side of the spectrum (and in this case, does hearken back to the 70's), Lovers In Love features a synth intro that feels like a throwback to ELO. In any case, these are still memorable moments within the CD and are usually supplemented with Portugal. The Man's own melodic twist. The band's Church Mouth record fell more in the line of the progressive/classic rock genre, and to some degree the new record does as well. But The Satanic Satanist is the kind of album that is chock-full of slow grooving hooks and concentrated harmonies that, to put it succinctly, are the kind that make you want to sit back and chill. Other highlights include the wah-infused The Home, the falsetto-driven The Woods, and the Beatles-esque Let You Down.
Lyrics — 8
Much like the layered aspects of Portugal. The Man's music, the lyrical content tends to go in a variety of directions. People Say takes a jab at the war on terror (All the people, they say: "What a lovely day, yeah, we won the war; May have lost a million men, but we've got a million more), while Lovers in Love is a bit more straightforward (And if another lover takes their love away from you; Be careful with your mind; What you're bound to do). There are moments when the lyrics might seem overly simplistic, but in the next breath vocalist John Baldwin Gourley will deliver a line that is thought-provoking and often times bitingly funny.
Overall Impression — 8
Even with its unusual title that seems more fitting more for, say, a black metal outfit, The Satanic Satanist is Portugal. The Man's most accessible album to date. That's not to say it's overly benign or unoriginal because it is still full of fresh ideas, particularly when the Moog and keyboard come into heavy play. The entire record is an enjoyable listen, although it doesn't contain quite as many wow moments as some of their earlier works. One can make the argument that they are writing for the good of the song in general, and therefore don't need to have excessive instrumentation or epic/bombastic musical sections. If there's one thing that's certain, it's that Portugal. The Man has never been more on target in terms of writing memorable, instantly hummable melodies.