Often times, I make feeble attempts to compare albums I hear to ones I’ve previously listened to. However, after listening to this particular collection of 12 tracks, I have come to a startling conclusion: there is no comparison in existence! The album Evil Friends by Alaskan rock group Portugal. The Man, their 7th studio release, certainly has its own original sound.
The album starts with a psychedelic rock ballad entitled Plastic Soldiers, which is a fantastic start, while the second track, Creep in a T-Shirt, provides some truly appreciated comic relief. After that, the title track, Evil Friends, gives the album more of an indie rock feel. The one comparison I was able to make over the course of the entire album was how this song sounded like a slightly faster adaptation of “Electric Version” by the New Pornographers.
My favorite track on the album would definitely have to be the fourth track, Modern Jesus. At this point, many Christians will be turning off the album and snapping their CDs in half; however, atheists will certainly be turning the volume up to the max. This independent from faith anthem contains a needed controversy that I feel is often absent from rock groups nowadays. This controversy is especially evident in the chorus, as frontman John Gourley sings, “Don’t pray for us/ We don’t need no modern Jesus/ To roll with us/ The only rule we need is never/ Giving up/ The only faith we have is faith in us.” “Modern Jesus,” like the rest of the album, is produced by the legendary Danger Mouse, but he also adds synthesizers and percussion on this specific track, which only adds to its awesomeness.
Following that monster track is Hip Hop Kids, the first truly forgettable song on the album. It sounds like something you would hear on that cable channel in the upper 9000s that claims to play the best in indie rock and nothing else. Frankly, “Hip Hop Kids” is far from the best in indie rock. In fact, I challenge you to find someone who truly listens to this song and has a strong desire to hear it again. I certainly don’t want to hear it again! The follow-up to that fairly generic song, is Atomic Man, which once again brings the album back to glory with its faster pace and reassurance that the writer’s former significant other kept holding him back, and that he’s better off now that she’s gone.
The next track, Sea of Air, is a bit too slow for me. It seems like it should be found on a cheesy Simple Plan album and not with the rest of these fairly stellar rock songs. Now let me make myself clear: Simple Plan is not a bad rock group, but their lyrics have long been known to mainly relate to angry middle class preteens. (“I’m just a kid;” “I’m sorry I can’t be perfect;” etc.) Sadly, the only good part of this song is the last 10 seconds, which include nothing but a short bass solo. A slight improvement to “Sea of Air” is the following track, Waves. The electric guitar is impressive, but it seemed to be drowned out by the somewhat wishy-washy lyrics.
Holy Roller (Hallelujah) is a vast improvement on the previous two tracks, and it made me feel like I had begun to listen to the beginning of the album again. Someday Believers is another solid track with a faster pace and decent lyrics. The eleventh track, and the first ever Portugal. The Man song I ever heard, Purple Yellow Red and Blue, is quite frankly the most radio ready track on the album (Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve DJed for WJEL in Indianapolis, and this is my field of expertise). The song is an absolute masterpiece, and it leaves listeners wanting to hear more of this strange Alaskan band that many people have never even heard of.
The amazing musical journey that is Evil Friends finally ends with the track Smile, which actually uses some of the same synths from the earlier “Plastic Soldiers.” Another solid song, “Smile” is perfect for bringing the album to a close.
Overall, this album was extremely brilliant. If you are even the slightest bit curious about this band, I encourage you to purchase this album. It would definitely be a great addition for your music collection! Even though there are three somewhat unneeded tracks on the album, overall it’s still a great piece of work. Beginning with “Plastic Soldiers” and concluding with “Smile,” the album is a synthetic masterpiece. It is the kind of album that gets you hooked on an artist. I now eagerly await the next release from my favorite Alaskan band, Portugal. The Man!