I don’t talk about music as much as I’d like to here on the blog, because it is one of my favorite things. So I thought I would review and recommend my current album obsession, Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man. And with the focus on Evil, and imagery that makes me think of Dia de los Muertos, it seems a good topic for Halloween!
I am new to this artist, having found them on my favorite source for music: the discography listing for music producer Danger Mouse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danger_Mouse#Discography). You may know Danger Mouse from projects like Gnarls Barkley, or from work on albums like Demon Days by the Gorillaz or El Camino by the Black Keys.
Something about his work producing these albums, or the artists he chooses to work with… something just really great happens. So I gave Evil Friends a try, and it has not disappointed. Thematically, it has me listening to the lyrics carefully and thoughtfully, and musically it has the sorts of things I love. So below I have a bit more discussion of these aspects, and a couple of (interesting) music videos so you can give a listen!
I don’t want to be Evil… I just don’t like to be damned!
Musically, this band is a lot of fun. They do one of my favorite things in songs quite often: change what the song is doing. I’m sure there’s a musical term for it, but I don’t know what it is. But basically, the songs will maybe start softly and pick up from there, or maybe start faster and slow down… An example is the music video above.
In finding videos for this post, I also found out that they do very interesting music videos! They seem to use the limited-motion style in them, moving around them, or doing interesting video editing. There are various levels of feeling uncomfortable with it, but I think that actually fits thematically. But I guess sorry if they weird you out… They weirded me out a bit too!
After You I Don’t Know What I Believe In… After You, Hell Should Be Easy.
Other than just a great sound, however, is the content of the music. Thematically, they tie together, and focus around themes of good and evil, sin and religion, without just being against it all. It’s a complicated listen, with songs that call-back to phrasing in other songs, and with a progression that feels like a story to me.
I would say that this album has a bit of a movement for a character, taken together; we begin with songs talking about not wanting to be evil. Pushing back against ideas of sin or Original Sin. Also not wanting some modern person to try to intercede on their behalf – no Modern Jesus. From there, there’s basically a fall, perhaps happening around the song Atomic Man. Losing some faith, feeling that maybe they’re experiencing something worse even than Hell…
Until eventually, in the song Purple, Yellow, Red & Blue (which you may recognize from the first episode of season 2 of Arrow… or maybe that was just me…) you hear the constant refrain of “I just / want to be Evil.” Warning, this video is less safe for work.
From what I have seen just in other album titles, this focus is in the previous albums from Portugal. The Man so I am wondering if I should dip back further into their history… or if I will be disappointed because it’s the combination of this artist and Danger Mouse that I love so much? If you’re a fan and know more, let me know in the comments below!