Portugal: The Man- Waiter: “You Vultures”
Fearless Records 2006
Portugal: The Man is:
John Gourley- Guitar, vocals
Wesley Hubbard- Keys, vocals
Zachary Carothers- Bass, vocals
Jason Sechrist- Drums
Recently I had the chance to go see The Fall of Troy in concert. It was in this small club in my city, and not many people were there. The opening bands were Damiera, Tera Melos, and Portugal The Man. Tera Melos offended many people in the crowd with their joking around onstage, Damiera was slightly boring but still enjoyable, and the Fall of Troy was… well, the Fall of Troy, with Thomas Erak’s guitar wizardry, girlish voice, and arrogant personality. The real gem of this show was Portugal: The Man, a band I had heard of, but never really looked into. Their set was a massive jam session, featuring appearances by musicians from all the other bands on the tour. They even passed out tambourines and maracas and small drums to the people in the front of the crowd. I was quite literally floored by the effects of this music. It was as if I was being surrounded in a cocoon of sound. I left the show a changed person.
Hailing from Alaska, Portugal: The Man started off playing a straightforward mix of indie rock and punk. They evolved their sound over time, though. It’s hard to pin Portugal down into one genre. Their Myspace page classifies them as soul/progressive/grime. I would agree with the soul part of that, as John Gourley’s sweet crooning voice rivals many of the old soul singers. I would also call them progressive, with their technical guitar lines and keyboard work. I guess it is for the listener to decide, because I’m sure everyone will have a different take on the music.
Lets discuss the different parts of the band. The guitar, first and foremost, is quite good. John Gourley is an accomplished player, and his bluesy sound really shines. Sometimes, he plays subtle blues guitar solos. Sometimes, he plays simple rhythm work. John is a very versatile player. The bass… ahhh, the bass. I had the chance to talk to him after the show. We discussed different techniques, as I am a bass player as well. Zachary Carothers is an amazing bassist. He takes the spotlight in many of the songs, with his powerful lines and interesting bass effects. I’m always happy to see a bassist who isn’t afraid to step forward and actually play his instrument. The drums are good, keeping the beat well and meshing with the bass to provide a solid rhythm section. Keyboards add to the mix, but are hardly recognizable in most songs, since the guitar and bass use so many effects. The lyrics are cryptic and trippy, reminding me of the Mars Volta with their propensity for making very little sense. Everyone in this band is a great musician, and I can tell that they’ve been playing together for years.
Waiter: “You Vultures!” is full of great songs. The opener, “How The Leopard Got His Spots”, begins with a guitar riff strummed over keyboard noise. The bass kicks in, but the vocals quickly take the spotlight. The listener will notice that John Gourley sings in an almost-falsetto. I think his singing rivals that of Anthony Green, and maybe parallels the greatest(in my opinion) “high” singer, Cedric Bixler-Zavala. “Marching With 6” is one of my favorite tracks, with it’s fast pace and bouncy bassline. Handclaps abound in this song. The background vocals almost remind me of newer Blood Brothers, sounding like a bunch of girls. Great song. “Tommy” is the sad tale of a boy obviously named Tommy, who used to be a good kid but fell into temptation and now lives on the streets and does drugs. The guitar in this song is very weird, sounding kind of like a squeaking gate for the first part and then culminating in a half-time strummed chorus. “Chicago” is an enjoyable song, sounding very much like a Broadway musical, only with trippy lyrics and trippier vocals. “Horse Warming Party” is my favorite track on the album. It sounds almost like a hip-hop song with the drums and bass doing most of the work, very minimal guitar. John Gourley almost chants the lyrics, which make no sense by the way. The music surrounds you, like a lush landscape. If you don’t at least tap your foot to this song, you are not human. While everyone I know likes it, “Guns, Guns, Guns”, the closer, is my least favorite song. It’s a good song for any other band to close their album with, but for a band like Portugal, its kind of underwhelming.
This album is gold, pure gold. I recommend this to anybody. Try it out, and if its not your cup of tea, pass it on to someone else. I also recommend seeing these guys live, they are insane. Go on, you owe it to yourself, give Portugal: The Man a try.