Music is taking cues from the past as more artists make political statements with their music. However, American rock band Portugal. The Man is taking their retro inspiration one step further and channeling true rock and roll in their new album, “Woodstock.”
The album name itself is a throwback to a golden era in rock and roll — the 1960s, in particular, the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Woodstock made history when a genre known for resistance, burgeoning sexuality and drugs performed a series of peaceful — though chaotic — concerts for almost half a million people on a farm in upstate New York for free. The festival featured a variety of iconic musicians who used music as a means to open the eyes of a younger generation to the injustices and politics of the world around them. Now Portugal. The Man is doing the same for the millennial generation.
The first track starts with a man yelling “No fake President,” faded in the background. From that moment on the album is a roller coaster of politics and great beats surrounded by the modern version of the psychedelic. “Number One” features guitar riffs reminiscent of the sitar and raspy vocals tied together by the heavy beat of the drums. The song itself is catchy and follows the rock tradition of darker subject matter delivered over an upbeat tempo through its discussion of suffering and not fighting against injustice.
“Easy Tiger” has a good message, but the execution leaves much to be desired. After a creative modernization of common trends in original rock and roll to give the old a new twist, the second track is an odd combination of The Beatles’ “Come Together” and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” Portugal. The Man has an obvious mastery of prose and has written a series of beautiful songs, but the delivery leaves the listener wanting more. “Easy Tiger” has so much yet so little going on musically. The lyrical delivery follows the staccato bursts of “Come Together,” with a similar baseline and chorus, but the melody is more in line with a synthesized “More Than a Feeling.” This track is definitely an acquired taste.
The next three songs on the album are the best. Gorgeous metaphors intertwine with a simplified beat and mellowed guitar to let “Live in the Moment” truly shine. “Feel It Still” introduces an intricate wall of sound that feels almost like it belongs in the Motown genre. Then “Rich Friends” brings the album back to Portugal. The Man’s Rolling Stone aesthetic. More than the beautiful musicality of these songs, the themes of these songs are more coherent, addressing issues of race, war, poverty and drugs and giving them a polished, grungy feel.
Unfortunately, the next three tracks are forgettable. They’re worth listening to and I wouldn’t skip them if they came up in a rotation, but they wouldn’t be part of the “Heavy Rotation” scroll on my iTunes account.
“Tidal Wave” brings the energy back to the album, and it’s safe to say energy is what Portugal. The Man does best. All of their uptempo songs are better put together than those they intended to be slower or serious.
This is furthered by their final track, “Noise Pollution.” Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo in France, this track was released as a single in 2015. One of the most obvious political of the ten songs on the album, “Noise Pollution” is catchy and a clever means to an end. Ending the album on this note encourages their goal of raising awareness of politics and important events going on in the world, as more people are choosing to know and learn about the global state of affairs.
All in all “Woodstock” was something I enjoyed listening to and — as someone who likes First Wave rock — I loved the aesthetic they brought back to the genre. I would definitely recommend certain parts of it to fans of The Beatles circa “Revolver” or The Rolling Stones.