UNITED STATES--Portugal. The Man’s June 2017 release is more than an alternative ear-smash. It’s—even if a poorly executed one—a kind of revolution.
“I’m a rebel just for kicks,” croons lead singer John Gourley in the album’s chart-topping track “Feel it Still,” but the band’s motive behind the album is, as Gourley explained in an interview with 9IX’s Zach Van Lue, much more than an aimless rebellion.
“It’s whatever’s going on at the time. It’ll be that,” said Gourley. “It has to be. We have to do whatever is in our heads at the time. You have to pair . . . with whatever else is happening in the world.”
“[The album] ended up with just the four of us in a basement at 4 a.m. trying to say something that mattered," Gourley said in an interview with Billboard. “[We were] trying to write music that would help people feel they’re not alone . . . [and that] we’re all in this together.”
The album’s title, Woodstock, reports Billboard, grew from a ticket stub of Gourley’s father’s for the original Woodstock music festival, an event which, occurring in 1969, on a dairy farm in White Lake, New York, was a self-proclaimed “3 Days of Peace and Music.”
“Woodstock was . . . about spirituality, about love, about sharing, about helping each other, living in peace and harmony,” said black singer Richie Havens. The album, which borrows the festival’s name, is no different.
Woodstock is made up of ten songs: “Number One,” “Easy Tiger,” “Live in the Moment,” “Rich Friends,” “Keep On,” “So Young,” “Mr. Lonely,” “Tidal Wave,” and the popular single “Feel it Still.” Each presents a different take on the current state of America with its own spunky sense of resistance.
“Freedom / Freedom / Freedom / Freedom / Sometimes I feel like a motherless child / A long way from my home,” Gourley sings in the first lines of “Number One,” apparently commenting on the jarring break, the Donald Trump revolution has delivered our young “child” country from the past, or from home.
“Such sweet memories / Will be the enemy,” Gourley next croons, seeming to speak to the animosity with which the Trump Administration has targeted the sweet status quo the country enjoyed before the election.
One can’t help but think of the Senate’s attempted Obamacare repeal or Trump’s attack on affirmative action in the lines “All the trails we blazed / Have long since been paved” or fail to hear the war cry, while we may be distraught and “Amazed / That the leaves have changed,” to meet that change with an effort to “Rise above / All of the chaos.”
“Easy Tiger” delivers a similar message, ostensibly urging listeners to beware of “the sound / Of the pack when they howl,” or of the power of our country’s silent majority. This tune is solemn as well as warning;. “It’s hard to see the clouds” it affirms, “when you’re 6 feet underground.”
“Live in the Moment” laments passed time: “When I was young / Always go below the midnight sun / Those days are done.” In it, Gourley also makes a cutting allusion to police brutality, moaning, “God only knows / We don't need history / When your family / Swinging from the branches of a tree / God only knows / We don't need ghost stories.” His prescription for our troubled America? “Wake up everybody you know.”
“Rich Friends,” while lighter than “Live in the Moment” similarly highlights societal ails. “Hey man I'm cool to lean on / But I'm not your property,” Gourley sings in this one—in an apparent jab at Trump and his supporter’s misogynistic understanding of women as property. “Let me be your one-man army,” Gourley rails against our reality, “I’ll campaign for anarchy.”
“Keep On” speaks of a liberal America sustaining itself by “banging my head against the wall / All day long / Banging my head against the wall” for a country “dead and gone.” “So Young” is as frustrated, commenting, “I don’t need to make amends” when our present state is one in which we fear that “one day the world may end.”
“Mr. Lonely” accounts Election Day celebrations as “glitter falling / And a banner that says / Welcome to Hell,” and the present as where “we whisper our dreams to the dark” and where “the twilight song” of an equitable nation exists only “in your head.”
“Tidal Wave” speaks of change that “hit me like a tidal wave / Triggered by the aftershock,” and satirical instructions, commenting on our inequitable world, to “bet on the winners” because the “worst of you's born to lose / Bed with no dinner / The rest of you's born to lose.”
“Noise Pollution” laughs at a “new world distribution” where we venture to “make low resolutions,” and that the Trump Administration finds the distraction of its “noise pollution” inherent to its “constitution.”
Most popular of all the album’s tracks, “Feel It Still” is also the most flippant. “Can't keep my hands to myself . . . Am I coming out of left field?” Gourley sings in it, mockingly instructing that we “fight a war for peace,” and, rather than resist, “wait until the walls come down.” Most recognizably, he pledges allegiance not to the flag, but to becoming “a rebel just for kicks.”
“Feel it Still’s” broken lines oblate a past America. “Is it coming? / Is it coming? / Is it coming? / Is it coming? / Is it coming? / Is it coming back?” Gourley ponders of our lost country. We, too, would like nothing more than to know.