Portugal. The Man found the opportunity to work with Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton so important that they scrapped two weeks of recording -- and eight of ten new songs -- in order to start fresh. Changing studio locations from El Paso to Danger Mouse's headquarters in L.A., the collaboration results in the band's most accessible and "mainstream" recording to date. The punchy, rhythm-driven elements in Danger Mouse's production create an elastic tension when contrasted with the band's loopy, hooky, guitar-centric, psych core. He doesn't change their sound, but brightens it, adding textural layers, to make it more dynamic and punchy. Set-opener "Plastic Soldiers" reveals that John Gourley's songwriting, with its wonderfully idiosyncratic world view, remains loaded with signifiers from rock's rich past. Strummed acoustic guitar and synth offer a dreamy intro. A little more than a minute later, the snare and handclaps enter, as do an all but hidden squiggly synth, and strings; the tempo picks up and the groove contrasts sharply with the tune's lyrics. "Creep in a T-Shirt," with its treated vocals, piano, whompy electronic keyboards, and synth horns, offers the trace elements of R&B while never leaving the psych behind. "Purple Yellow Red and Blue" is fingerpopping time -- it's almost funky with a popping bassline, low-end breakbeats, almost shimmering acoustic guitars, chorus-style vocals, a chugging B-3, and piano -- while "Hip Hop Kids" (one of the two songs they kept and re-recorded) isn't, its use of the genre's tight, skittering rhythm, which drives a sprawling meld of distorted electric guitars and washed-out keyboards, is an example of the expansive elements that Danger Mouse brings to the rockist bent in P.TM's aesthetic. The album's hinge track, "Atomic Man," shows the other side: a driving rocker with a near chanted backing chorus and fuzzed-out guitars is brightened considerably with a meaty rim shot snare. Though album-closer "Smile" may be the set's least commercial track, it may also be the finest moment on the entire record. In just under five minutes it combines languid balladry, Baroque pop, a rhythm collision, screaming guitars, and strings. Evil Friends offers ample evidence that the match between Portugal. The Man and Burton expanded the horizons of both parties and will likely heighten the band's profile considerably.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek