Weirdly named punk eccentrics Anatomy Of A Ghost regrouped recently under the even weirder name Portugal. The Man, and they've assembled a still more oddly titled album, Waiter: "You Vultures!" It'd be hard for any band to live up to so many curious monikers, but Portugal. The Man almost pulls it off, by painstakingly assembling mini-psychodramas that careen from tuneful prettiness to pure mayhem in seconds flat. The best case in point: Waiter's "Elephants," which starts in a gentle hush and rises to a tuneful clatter before ending in a frenzy of shouting and hard-rock pummel. It's a rocky ride, but internally consistent, and even hooky in its way.
The Alaska-born, Portland-based Portugal. The Man belongs to the same progressive-minded quasi-emo school as Sunny Day Real Estate, Wolf Parade, and Cursive, though PTM is both more reckless and less grand than its predecessors. Even an excitingly unpredictable song like "Chicago"—which is all raging guitars and "burn this motherfucker down" for the first two minutes, and dreamy piano ballad for the last two—is ultimately indicative of eclecticism for eclecticism's sake.
The whiplash stylistic switcheroos don't pay off much in the overdetermined first half of Waiter: "You Vultures!", but right around the album's fifth song, "Marching With 6," Portugal. The Man's sound begins to cohere. The remainder of the album integrates John Baldwin Gourley's punk, avant-garde, and hip-hop influences into more fluid tracks like the slinky art-funk workout "Bad, Bad Levi Brown" and the darkly anthemic "Kill Me. The King." By the time Gourley and company are subverting dirty-South rap and Santana in the scarily robotic "Horse Warming Party," it's obvious that for all Portugal. The Man's gawkiness, the band has vision—partly cloudy, but clearing. (In stores January 24.)