Portugal. The Man
American Ghetto


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex C. Soothsayer USER (33 Reviews)
March 3rd, 2010 | 49 replies | 19,486 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: American Ghetto is the album no one could have expected Portugal. The Man to make just months after their previous release.

7 of 9 thought this review was well written

Back in October 2009, just two months after the release of Portugal. The Man's fourth studio album The Satanic Satanist, the band quietly announced a new album was already in the works. Like many, I was weary of what was to come with this mysterious new album: Would it just be a b-sides collection? Would it sound rushed? Has the band finally lost their minds? Luckily for the music loving community none of my preconceptions about American Ghetto came true (actually I think the band lost their minds from the beginning, so maybe I was half right about that one.) What did come to existence is another soulful record from one of the most prolific bands around today.

In actuality, if Portugal had not released an album in 2010 it would have come as an even bigger surprise. Since the release of the band's debut album Waiter: "You Vultures!" in 2006 Portugal have released an album a year, most times with an EP in between releases. In fact, frontman John Gourley finds it humorous that many see their album-a-year model surprising: "I always think this is the funniest question to ask, how do you write an album every year...but I mean, it's a year man [laughs]," he stated in a recent interview with KCRW. Those well versed in Portugal's discography will tell you that the band does not make the same album twice. So where does American Ghetto fit in with the rest of the band's work? Let's just say this isn't just a bunch of tracks leftover from The Satanic Satanist.

Many elements found on American Ghetto can be traced back to earlier albums: the electronic beats of It's Complicated Being A Wizard, the bluesy guitar riffs of Church Mouth, the quirkiness and soul of The Satanic Satanist and the composed vocal stylings of Waiter; however American Ghetto is its own monster. The biggest thing Portugal took away from their experience thus far is their new found ability to construct an album full of consistent songs. Up until the release of The Satanic Satanist the band had struggled with lengthy albums plagued by songs that aren't quite up to par; but no longer, Satanist nestled the band into a perfect place of 35 minutes/11 solid songs. Instead of trying to pack as many ideas into a song as possible Portugal cut the fat and kept the jams for the stage, making easily digestible songs and albums with zero-filler. Even with their new view on songwriting Portugal maintained what made their song's great in the first place - the hodgepodge of rock, indie, blues and any other genre they decide to take on.

The songs found on American Ghetto span many different emotions and sounds. Even though almost every song is focused around electronic beats they all feel very human and lively, even more so than the experimental EP It's Complicated Being A Wizard. Buried underneath the electronic noise is the signature bluesy guitar riffs, groovy bass and booming drums found on every Portugal album. The band has truly found an even harmony between synthesized beats and regular rock instruments. The band have crafted some of their most upbeat and catchy songs on the album such as lead single and brilliant opener 'The Dead Dog,' single candidate #2 '60 years,' '1000 years' and unlikely closer but infectiously catchy 'When The War Ends.' On the other half of the album the band goes in the complete opposite direction with depressingly dark songs like 'Just a Fool' and 'Some Men.' Lyrically American Ghetto is Portugal's most clear cut and consistent, focusing around the band's roots in Alaska and experiences as a band. Zoe Manville rejoins the band again to balance out John Gourley's restrained singing. Unlike on Satanist where Gourley let his voice loose any chance he could John dials it back a few notches and allows Zoe to hit the highs.

There is a lot to love about American Ghetto. Musically and lyrically it is just as consistent, if not more, than any of the band's earlier works. Each of the 11 songs are solid in their own right, leaving the album with little to no filler. The biggest flaw of the album is the flow. The Satanic Satanist flowed beautifully between it's 11 tracks - each track segued into the next and the album moved between moods almost effortlessly. The same can not be said for American Ghetto. The beginning half of the album and the last half of the album are polar opposites in terms of mood. Closer 'When The War Ends' may be Portugal's most radio friendly and catchy song, but why is it ending an album? The emotional previous track 'Some Men' would have worked much better as a closer. With a little track reorganization the album would have been a much more cohesive work like its predecessor.

American Ghetto is the album no one could have expected Portugal. The Man to make just months after their previous release. The band takes on a brand new sound and wields it with mastery just as they had done in the past. Other band's should take note - you don't need 5 years to put out an excellent album; at least if you're Portugal. The Man you don't.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Prophet178
March 3rd 2010



6397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd say so.

Nikkolae
March 3rd 2010



4767 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

where's the tracklist at?, great review, though i didnt really enjoyed it i am giving it a few more listens, maybe it will be a grower for me

Digging: We Came Out Like Tigers - Ever-Crushed at Pecket's Well

Prophet178
March 3rd 2010



6397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man, no clue, I didn't add it to the database so I can't edit it. I had it at a 3.5 but I think the review reads more like a 4. Plus after to listening to it for the review a few times I realized there really isn't a bad track.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2010



17196 Comments


no no no no no

BenedictVII
March 3rd 2010



369 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

When I listened to this, nothing really stood out to me. There didn't seem to be anything new or exciting here. I'll have to listen to it some more I guess.

mmfarva
March 3rd 2010



1352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Can't wait to get my paycheck tomorrow so I can finally buy it. Just not sure whether I want to get the vinyl or not.

shinfojoe
March 3rd 2010



271 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

pretty good, but a few duds here and there

AKAm80theWoods
March 4th 2010



9 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

excellent review. the album is fantastic as well.

all my people is one of my favorites.

Prophet178
March 4th 2010



6397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man. Yeah the chorus to that song has been stuck in my head since I first heard it.

weareshadenow
March 4th 2010



175 Comments


This band tries to hard to suck.

Fapper
March 4th 2010



649 Comments


What a douche.

Romulus
March 4th 2010



8411 Comments


Good review, the album was pretty unmemorable for me but definitely not poor

Prophet178
March 4th 2010



6397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks dude. Started as a 3 for me too, maybe you should give it another try.

AKAm80theWoods
March 5th 2010



9 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it started around a 3 for me as well. i've listened to it at least 20+ since it released and wow, fantastic. it's astounding how they can change their style so drastically from album to album and still put out top-notch work.

MaskAtTheMasquerade
March 5th 2010



2887 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

probably have listened to this 20 times by now, they're last two albums have been so short!

Freditron
March 7th 2010



23 Comments


Great album. I'd say in between 4 - 4.5, closer to a 4.5 though.

Freditron
March 7th 2010



23 Comments


So good.

Prophet178
March 7th 2010



6397 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I tried out an alternate tracklisting I made up and I think it flows better than the original (which was my main gripe about the album), try it out of any of you agree:

The Dead Dog
60 Years
The Pushers Party
Do What We Do
Break
Fantastic Pace
All My People
1000 Years
When The War Ends
Just a Fool
Some Men

sniper
March 9th 2010



18955 Comments


I loved Its Complicated, so hopefully I'll like this too?

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

taxidermist
March 9th 2010



7195 Comments


Hopefully tis album won't dissapoint once I give it a listen. The Satanic Satanist was a great album.



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