July 27, 2009

Review: Portugal. The Man - The Majestic Majesty

"Work all day, keep the rhythm through the night / Work all night, keep the rhythm through the day/ Sell that soul, you'll be burning up right / Got no soul? Well that's fine all right," sing John Baldwin Gourley and his chorus of bandmates over a heavily reverberated bass drum, clacking drumsticks, acoustic guitar, xylophone, and a riffing banjo on The Majestic Majesty.

The album is an alternate acoustic version of The Satanic Satanist—the fourth full-length from Portland, Oregon by way of Wasilla, Alaska band Portugal. The Man. The Majestic Majesty may not contain the sprawling psychedelic classic rock of its electric kin, but—with identical tracking, save for the electric piano-centered "Let You Down"—it's no less ambitious, and in many ways, more potent than the official release.

Recorded live in a friends studio over the course of a few hours, this unrehearsed session contains a beautiful array of raw and bare tracks that displays the band's knack for experimental soundscapes in an effects-pedal and computer free zone. Played in a loose but sharply rehearsed environment, the songs are held up solely by the band members' instrumental chops and Gourley's voice—both of which shine in a clear ramshackle light.


The album is similar in style to T. Rex's second LP—Prophets, Seers & Sages. The 1971 recording was comprised of just Marc Bolan on vocals and guitar and Steve Took playing a menagerie of acoustic instruments, from the bongo and kazoo to the Chinese Gong—a wildly psychedelic but extremely intimate album.

The Majestic Majesty is just as delightfully bizarre, but Gourley and fellow Portgual. The Man members Ason Sechrist, Ryan Neighbors, and Zachary Carothers perform with such conviction and confidence throughout the ten tracks that even the most far out moments are rendered tangible and fully-baked for mass consumption. From the a cappella finale of "Home" to the chain-gang-like delivery of "Work All Day" and the 70s arena rock falsetto throughout "The Woods," Portugal. The Man have made a recording that is both enjoyable and accessible while remaining uniquely their own.

Rating: A magical cat, homemade mango chutney, and an octopus suit.

Portugal. The Man - "Work All Day (Acoustic)" (from Majestic Majesty)

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