Friday, May 16, 2008

Man oh Man Man

Boy oh boy.
It dawned on me that if I'd really been thinking a few weeks back, I could have continued my alphabetical posting project for at least one entry after Ladyhawk, if I'd written about Man Man at the time.

But I didn't, and so the project was abandoned. No great loss to society, mind you, and I was pretty taken with Woodhands after their show and was itching to write about them. Since then however, I keep going back to Man Man's latest album, Rabbit Habits, and it's definitely time I wrote a little bit about it.

I've included the name Tom Waits in the labels for this post, not just because the gravel-voiced genius is Man Man's label-mate at Anti- Records (though as an aside, you should seriously check out the Anti- roster, it's phenomenal), but because Rabbit Habits sounds like it was recorded by the house band at a joint where Swordfishtrombones' "Frank's Wild Years" is forever G-05 on the jukebox.

Vocalist Honus Honus' raspy delivery is Waits-ian, but the chaotic circus melodies the band crafts are the real comparison point: horns, organ, marimba and more create a cacophony from opener "Mister Jung Stuffed," [video below] right on through to "Whale Bones." Plus the percussion has that junk-yard clang that has propelled Waits' best work.

As good as "Mister Jung Stuffed" is, the real highlight is "The Ballad of Butter Beans" where the marimba propels the band like the bloodhound of the lyrics leading a chase while a multitude of voices, layer upon layer of them, deliver both chorus and refrain - traversing octaves playfully and imaginatively. The results, to paraphrase Cole Porter, are "swellegant."

I didn't manage to find the ballad as an mp3, but here's "Top Drawer"

Be sure to visit Man Man's label, Anti-, home to an amazing roster of artists including Winnipeg's own Weakerthans.
Also check out Man Man's website and Myspace page.

And hey, if you happen to be in the Netherlands or France, Man Man are in your neck of the woods - go check 'em out live!

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

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