Jun 13, 2011 Web Exclusive
The layers of references in almost anything by Philadelphia group Man Man are manifold. There's a touch of Latin swing here, a sea shanty feel there, a Waits-ian growl from frontman Honus Honus here, or maybe it's just the sounds playing tricks?
Life Fantastic is no exception. Swaying along with varied but melodic percussion, and blaring horn and string sections, each track seems different from the one just before or after. The opening track, "Knuckle Down," stomps along with rippling mallets and chromatic falling lines. By the second track, "Piranhas Club," the music's been transported to surf rock with a breezy, watery island-inspired moment of reflection. But "Steak Knives" strips it all down. Opening with just voice and pizzicato strings, wistful legato strings eventually enter, though the song never quite breaks free of its original, disconnected accents. And that's just the first three tracks.
The connecting strands here are the underlying gypsy sensibilities and the pervasive percussion. Playful rhythms pull the melodies this way and that. A variety of percussive instruments abound and virtually every instrument on the album is incorporated percussively at one point or another through a prolific use of staccato lines.
Life Fantastic rolls along with signature Man Man sounds and forms, which is to say, a carnival of sorts. Part gypsy, part rock, slightly crazed. (www.manmanbandband.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 10/10