Review Summary: Portugal. The Man make acoustics as fresh as possible.
My first experiences with Portugal. The Man this very year suggested this to me: they strive on vibe. Any minute out of forty on The Satanic Satanist
was cramped with patterns of pulse both little and large, from glittery riffs (“Lovers In Love”) to the loudest of drumbeats at the forefront for a world of noise (“The Woods”), but no matter how squashed the disc sat, the band never, ever took the pitfall risks it could’ve. They just knew where to return - and, even better, with what tone of voice – and so their songs culminated into an album of mood and music – or, as the optimist’s “Everything Is Golden” proves once and for all to me, mood accompanied by music. So in that respect, The Majestic Majesty
isn’t as complementary as can-be: it’s an absolute transformation. Wave goodbye to the amp and strip away the piano, drum kit and synth galore, and the several men behind the one man clearly feel out of their dimension – but even without several tonnes of melodic tricks at their disposal, the songs feel as imposing and intense as ever, even on their new paths.
While they certainly weren’t hiding
behind chasms of instrumentation during The Satanic Satanist
, its acoustic twin seems to work best by thinking under that umbrella: “Lovers In Love” - possibly the most accomplished change album to album - in no way wants to work as a look-alike; the strums are the least typical, least offensive and even least noticeable on the record and ultimately leave Gourley’s high-reaching voice pulling the track together in a way the original never did: exchanging the glistening for the slow ‘n’ menacing. In “Work All Day” they make the natural replacement to an electric guitar a banjo, create the barest drumbeats about and make an even smoother sing-along than they originally did.
Where I was truly stunned by how easy The Satanic Satanist
made composition sound - and this will surely be the band’s proudest progression made from their awesomely chaotic debut, Waiter: “You Vultures!”
– the barebones The Majestic Majesty
sets out not to ‘make it sound easy’ but to sound simply simple. “Everyone Is Golden” comes off as if gathered with people just playing and humming and singing whatever they want, and no matter how little goes into the song (some voices, a guitar and some shaken percussion), it couldn’t sound louder and prouder. And whether or not the songs sound bettered in their new environment (“The Home”) or neglected (“The Sun”), it only matters that Portugal. The Man sound far more confident than they should. And that’s all the nurturing their acoustics really need.