Monday, February 18, 2008

Portugal. The Man - Church Mouth

When I make a sandwich I usually use white bread. I was raised on white bread, and it provides a comforting foundation on which to place any combination of meats, cheeses, or even PB&J. But every once and a while, I get adventurous. I reach for two slices of rye or sourdough, or perhaps potato bread to provide an exciting new backdrop for my lunchtime extravaganza. However, not everyone shares my adventurous spirit. There are some too afraid to be rid of their comforting white bread, and eat nothing but the stuff until the day they die.

Portugal.The Man fall into the latter category. Their latest album, Church Mouth, is a mesh of classic rock riffs, blues-tinged vocals, and wailing vocals. Guitarist and vocalist John Gourley is clearly a graduate of the Jimmy Page School of guitar playing, and his vocals are a spitting image of Page’s Zeppelin band mate Robert Plant. The bass and drums hold the steady groove well throughout the album, and if you close your eyes and listen, you might just think this album was written in 1972. The production on this disk sounds truly authentic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the instruments were recorded to analog tape, as opposed to a computer hard-disk.

The band play close to their comfort zone throughout the album, with songs around the same tempo, and vocalist Gourley staying in his limited vocal range. By the 5th song “Shade” Portugal.The Man’s formula starts to get a bit boring. The songs lack memorable moments and start to blend together. Their sandwich needs to be spiced up a little. Portugal.The Man needs to reach for some marble rye. They could really turn some heads if they did, but alas, they never do. The band wants their musical sandwich served on white bread, with the crust cut off, and won’t accept anything else without a tantrum.

Church Mouth is an album that sounds its best blaring out of a boom box at a house party. While the band don’t have a very memorable sound, they sure are fun. There are plenty of chances on Church Mouth to bang your head, shake your fist, and even do that weird little hippy dance that people used to do. Gourley’s vocal melodies aren’t the best, but he makes you want to hear what he is singing about. However his lyrics are somewhat abstract. This could be bad if you want to find deeper connection to the music, or it could be extremely righteous if you want to find deeper connection to the music through the use of various “substances” which may or may not be legal to possess in New York State.

Church Mouth shows the listener what kind of songs Portugal.The Man are the most comfortable making. What separates this from a great album is the fact that they never step outside of that comfort bubble. If their sandwich is not triangularly sliced, they will flip out. But hopefully, in time, they can learn to love the wonderous flavors of sourdough or potato bread. Trust me, that would make for excellent sandwich………….album.


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