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Portugal. The Man - Censored Colors
from Wasilla, Alaska
Review by Tony BonyataAlaskan rock act Portugal. The Man may have carved out a respectable place within the rock music world with their two previous efforts - 2006's Waiter: You Vultures and the remarkable Church Mouth which followed only a year later - but with the recent release of their third full-length album, Censored Colors, they've got some major competition for press from another local 'celebrity.' That's because Republican vice-president nominee Sarah Palin hails from the same town of Wasilla as this rock quartet, where she served as mayor from 1996 to 2002 before she was elected as the state's governor two years ago.
But while this dynamic, eclectic rock band may share the same zip code as this vice-presidential hopeful, that's where the similarities end. Portugal. The Man's John Gourley recently made this clear in a blog he wrote explaining the values he was taught by his parents as a youth growing up in Alaska, and how they have nothing in common with Palin's own views and values.
Whether sharing the same hometown as Palin helps or hinders the attention on this band, one thing is clear from listening to Censored Colors - this is an odd and affecting record that demands repeat listens to fully appreciate its complexities. As unique as anything out there today, this foursome has eschewed some of the psychedelic blues and harder rock elements of their last album, Church Mouth, and have turned in a challenging, mind-boggling and, yes, even mind-expanding collection of beautiful confusion.
Familiar elements, such as the soulful "Our Times" and "Colors" with its heavenly falsetto harmonies and the tender folk balladry of "Created" collide with the decidedly edgier track "Hard Times" and the prog-rock infused "Never Pleased." When they add in the avant-garde, free-jazz horns on "New Orleans" it sounds like TV On The Radio on a hazy absinthe bender, staggering through the streets of the French Quarter at 3am.
While not always perfect, Censored Colors is definitely an arresting collection of rock songs with a refreshingly new approach and direction. Something Gourley is eager to point out that his now-famous Wasilla native politician certainly lacks.
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