Review Summary: The EP that followed Portugal's excellent debut is a hidden gem in the band's discography.
Portugal. The Man have always been a shaky band. They came onto the scene in 2006 with their debut album Waiter: "You Vultures!"
, which is still widely considered their best work to date. A year and a half later they released their sophomore record Church Mouth
which caught negative reviews from many critics (including Sputnik's own Nick Greer.) Continuing with the album-per-year flow, Portugal came out with the art rock epic Censored Colors
, gaining mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. It was not until 2009's The Satanic Satanist
that the band fully realized their sound and crafted an album that matches, or bests, their debut. In between each of their full lengths the band also put out short EP's: the electronic experimental It's Complicated Being a Wizard
, acoustic companion CD to Satanist
- The Majestic Majesty
and the 4 track EP that followed the debut Devil Say I, I Say Air
. Unsurprisingly, the Devil Say I
EP is the best of the bunch, bringing the elements from the debut that made it so successful.
Devil Say I, I Say Air
is a four track EP, consisting of two of the best tracks from Waiter
and two unreleased tracks. Almost unarguably one of Portugal's best tracks starts off the EP, 'AKA M80 The Wolf.' Disregarding the name which I can only assume is named after an assault rifle, a grenade and Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction
, the song is excellent. A looped and sampled guitar line weaves throughout the song as bassist Zach Carothers experiments with more effects pedals than I can name. A brilliantly catchy bridge and chorus are the main appeal of the track, making it easy to see why this song is a permanent staple in Portugal's live setlist. John Gourley's vocals are smooth and calm instead of his signature falsetto, making this one of the easier Portugal tracks to digest. 'The Pines' follows suit, sticking to an upbeat tempo that is heavily bass driven. The band experiments with some vocal manipulation in the second half of the song, auto-tuning John's vocals for a slight second during the pre-chorus, making for an unforgettable moment. What makes both of these songs instantly lovable is the perfect blend of indie rock and progressive, something Portugal struggled to maintain on their sophomore album.
'The Devil' is one of Portugal's most interesting songs. It starts off with a bluesy guitar line and tambourine providing the rhythm. John's vocals are as smooth as ever, and with no drums to crowd the mix they are very clear as well. The track stays calm the whole way through, switching off between the sampled guitar line and a foot tapping bass rhythm. Portugal have never made a song quite like this one ever again, which makes it one of the best B-sides they have ever released. The final song on the EP is a remix of the lead song on the debut, 'How The Leopard Got It's Spots.' Another one of the band's best songs, and one of the best on the debut, 'Leopard' works well as a remix. Handclaps are thrown in and the bass distorted to an electronic fuzz, turning the track into a completely danceable remix. More of a bonus than anything else, the remix is just good fun.
It is sad that Portugal did not continue to stick with the style found on this EP and their debut. The band synergy and blend of indie rock and progressive made these two releases magical. For fans who gave up after the debut should grab this EP to get their Portugal fix, as the two unreleased tracks are among Portugal's finest pieces. As it seems Portugal will never return to this style of playing again, these two releases should not be missed.