Review Summary: "Censored Colors" is a warm take on the winter of Alaska, but as delectable as that may sound, they take it twelve steps too far in the direction of tedium.
My natural inclination as a writer of the long-winded variety is to go on and on about a particular subject, identifying unique instances where the topic of my writing is either specifically good, tremendously bad, or generally mediocre. Portugal. the Man’s new album Censored Colors
should demand such treatment, being a long winded, incredibly verbose work of art itself. It is filled to the brim with the eccentricities of the bands previous records, except now in an acoustic, string and organ packed parcel. It sounds like a direct result of their upbringing in Alaska (don’t buy into the “southern rock” motif) in that it is wildly and strangely beautiful…but just as with the real Alaska, those feelings only last so long and only in so many places, and thus the album ends up being boring and derivative far more than it is wonderful and free.
Whereas Portugal. the Man were a fairly unique band before, despite some light connections to other acts they frequently toured with, on Censored Colors
that takes a backseat, as they instead opt to relish in their influences, ranging from hard rock acts from the 70’s like Led Zeppelin and Kansas, to earlier Motown artists to current, more “scene” acts like Circa Survive and Finch. In the midst of the acoustic flourishes that are spilt throughout the album are effects-drenched guitar solos, straight out of a song from Led Zeppelin 2
. Despite the best efforts from singer John Gourley with his ridiculously high pitched shrieking and crooning, the music still manages to be an extremely smooth listen, resulting in a cohesive effort far exceeding anything they have previously recorded.
However, at 53 minutes, Censored Colors
is lacking in ideas. They repeat the same soulful chants and bluesy solos repeatedly, the same minimalist drumming and acoustic melodies. While they do mix up the tempo of the album enough, songs like “All Mine” just get lost in the shuffle of the album, which is a damn shame because on its own, a song like “All Mine” is very good. In fact, if you were to take Censored Colors
and separate it into 3, perhaps 4 parts, and release them separately you would have a collection of very good, if very samey, EP’s. The drudging through the entirety of the collection is what is hard though, and I have yet to be able to sit down and listen to the whole record without switching to something else for a substantial period of time.
In the context of the realm of punk/indie music, Censored Colors
is a remarkable album both in concept and execution. Then again, when you think of the heaps of music that was made in the decades before Portugal. the Man, it all seems rather under whelming and quite derivative of better, more important bands. Bringing this full circle, Censored Colors
is a paradox in that it is a big, extravagant album that is only deserving of sparse details and exposition. The entire album feels like a homogenous mix of soulful rock, blues, and acoustic pop. Perhaps if they had added in more of their trademark sound, it could have been an interesting combination of those earlier sounds with a more contemporary, fresh experimental twist. All in all, Censored Colors
will please previous fans and may even broaden their fanbase further, but its hard to get over the fact that it is so contrived and unrelentingly homage-y and old-fashioned.