I have to admit that while I’ve enjoyed past albums by Portugal. The Man, I’ve never been as crazy about them as so many other bloggers. But with “American Ghetto,” that all changed. The band’s latest album, and I believe the first on their own, indie imprint label via Equal Vision Records, is pure brilliance. While past albums have been heavily influenced by John, Paul, Ringo and George, this is the first time I’ve seen Portugal. The Man as a wholly distinctive group, with a sound that may have traces of melodic classic rock (think David Bowie as well as the Fab Four), but is at the same time original, exciting, and completely unpredictable.
Old fans will find the usual mix of classic rock, pop, psychedelic funk, and soul here, but the olio is now perfected into an organic, musical beast. Something sleek, like a leopard. New listeners should find the album at once overwhelming and fascinating. And any serious music fan will have to listen to it all the way through, at least twice, before forming an opinion.
Choice cuts like “All My People” and “The Dead Dog” are crisp, clear singles that in the past would have driven a record like this straight to the top of the charts. (If you are chanting “I got my haaaaands up!” all day, you might be dead.)
John Gourley, the lead singer/songwriter of the band, has finally found his true voice. Again, previous albums by the band have all been solid and strong, but this is their breakthrough release: The one that should establish, once and for all, that Portugal. The Man is one of the best bands working today.