Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The guys in Portugal. The Man must have taken a lot of shit a few years ago and it might still find them every once in a while, on drunken nights out with their Portland friends. Originally, the four members found themselves starting out as a rock and roll band in the city of Wasilla, Alaska, which, during the United States presidential election of 2008, became relatively famous as the city where a former sports anchor and moose-shooting politician named Sarah Palin had previously been mayor before being governor of the oil-rich state way up north. Who knows how many dumb questions they must have answered about the maverick who claimed she could see Russia from her front yard - queries like, "You ever see her at any ribbon-cutting ceremonies, dude?" or "She cook a good brat, or what? She's hot." Then again, the members of the group might have just had one of those blank stares for answering, as the intricacies of Portugal. The Man songs are not aspects that come from people who don't find themselves in full-on absorption mode almost all of the time. There's no easy button that they can press and have the results be the same as they take higher-order thinking and extrapolate on those ideas to make a sound that resides somewhere between existential exit tests and some comprehensive, howling ether that connects a hallucinatory dream state and the heights of the moon. Lead singer John Gourley has a voice that reminds us of the earthy tones that must have been coming out of the hillsides and woodsy encampments up in the Laurel Canyon area of Hollywood, California, back in the 1960s and 70s, along with a touch of the garage rock, pursed lips, curved-at-the-ends manner that Jack White brings to his songs. It's music that lets the sun break into the proceedings and you feel as if you've assumed a seat in a levitation machine that's pumping pure oxygen into your lungs, giving you some kind of a buzz that you don't usually get. It feels like a chase scene from Magnum P.I. some of the time, with an ancient wah-wah sound, but more than anything, it hits us right in the chest as something that we can find ourselves getting stoned to, through no effort of our own - whether that's something we're looking for or not.