Portugal. The Man magnificently explores millennial concerns with their new release, “Woodstock.” It’s hard to fathom that the eighth release from the band might be their best work to date, which should enlighten and excite PTM fans no end.
“Woodstock” came about, according to the band’s press release when lead singer, John Gourley had an epiphany after discovering his Dad’s thought-provoking old ticket stub from the iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival.
The 60s Woodstock Festival is an excellent example that illustrates how throughout history artists have used their music and art to influence movements to inspire social changes and, or improvements in the world. On the flip side, growing up in the 80s there was also the lure of the mind-numbing ideology that in order to escape from the mad-sadness in the world, according to the Beasty Boys, one needed to, “Fight for your right, to party.”
Some might debate that “Woodstock” is PTM’s exploration and transition from being the sync-psychedelic-pop indie rockers who just wanted to party, to the socially conscious musicians who now understand the complexities of growing up too fast and the weariness of how society actually spins.
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This new awaking for the band might have something to do with the idea of fatherhood as lead vocalist John Gourley has expressed fears as a father reflecting on his own personal experiences in life.
The opening track, “Number One,” (rightfully titled) has the band paying homage to the late great Richie Havens as they mix the beginning of his live performance of “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” from the 69 Woodstock Festival with PTM’s surrealistic slowed down blues buzz to produce a blazing manifesto elucidating the pain and difficulties of the living. It’s a comforting and concerning song that could be listened to over and over again without the feeling of overplaying.
Historically, during the early years of Continental America, a song was the only way African-Americans could express their pain openly. These songs, called “spiritual songs” for the soul still resonate today. This particular spiritual song has been recorded by the legendary likes of Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Griffin, Mahalia Jackson and even Tom Jones with Portishead.
“Easy Tiger,” the next track on the album opens with killer synth beats from Kyle O’Quin’ on keyboards, added with a kick ass drumbeat from Jason Sechrist. Followed by bottom dropping bass lines from Zach Carothers mixed statically with Eric Howk’s mean guitar picking that is conjoined and masterly filtered through the melancholy falsetto vocals of John Gourley. “Tiger” serenades listeners, offering advice to the youths of the world to slow down or take it, “Easy Tiger, you’re only 16 going on forever” as to suggest life is not a race, but a journey to enjoy, which transitions remarkable well into PTM’s auto-tuned vocal suggestion on the next track, to “Live In The Moment.”
PTM’s mega-hit “Feel It Still” might be the rebel yell from the band comparing experimental drug usage and the social changes of the days of 1966 to the party fueled days of 1986. The song is an ode to the era of the 60s suggesting to keep your eyes open and your mind free-or ‘feel it still.’
Furthermore, bassist Zach Carothers and vocalist John Gourley warn about the ignorance and the oxymoron idea of fighting a war for peace when they sing ironically, “We could fight a war for peace.” Some might say it’s an epiphany jumping out from the band’s 2011 release “The Satanic Satanist” where “People Say, what a lovely day yeah we won the war may have lost a million men but we got a million more…”
Nevertheless, the band continues the 60s folk awareness vibe with the finger-snapping ditty “Keep On,” that scores well as Gourley’s vocals bounce over Sechrist’s thunder crashing drums. Gourley remembers as a kid the misleading propaganda thought that being a winner was based on what shoes you were wearing and not about being a good human being when he sings “I never listen, to tell the truth…Got me thinking about it-all day long-in a song-banging my head against the wall,”
PTM slow it down in the midstream in the new release with the reggae sounding jam “So Young.” On this track, Gourley is assisted with vocals from longtime collaborator Zoe Manville. Gourley and Manville have a sound that meshes extremely well together while complimenting each other at the same time, it even works when she deadpans “Man that’s so young.”
“Mr. Lonely” is a sparkling diamond in the mix that features a soft-spoken intro that’s followed by Gourley’s high-pitched falsetto voice, mixed with Manville’s whispers that are interwoven splendidly. It seems as if the listener is privy to a muffled phone conversation on a very old phone. The conversation or story is finished and enhanced with a splendid rap interlude from guest rapper Fat Lip.
The last track on the new release, “Noise Pollution,” is an incredible tune that finds Gourley rapping with chorus help from both Manville and actress/musician, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (you might recognize her from the stellar FX drama series, Fargo). The three voices belt out a warning about the tribulations of too much noise when searching for the truth. The song sounds a little like the splendid joint from, A Tribe Called Quest, “We The People.”
“Noise Pollution” expresses the confusion many young people face today. PTM appear to sense they too, have a hard time trusting anyone and advise listeners not to get caught up in the misinformation or “the noise” and to stand up for the social ills, as that’s the way life is. “Woodstock” is a musical light for all those lost in the darkness, listen up, and enjoy, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
Woodstock drops on the 16th of June 2017 via Atlantic Recording Corporation/WEA International Inc