Imagine screams, yelps, outbursts and pandemonium. Imagine grown men singing like children. Imagine a brilliant mixture of slow, soulful songs with upbeat, horn-blaring and piano-smashing madness. Imagine organized and surreal chaos. Realize Man Man’s latest album, Six Demon Bag.
The group is perhaps best known for its unrelenting, explosive live show. Rolling Stone even acknowledged Man Man’s exceptional live performance, naming the band “Best Stage Show” at the indie-multimedia festival, South by Southwest 2005. Man Man’s latest effort is able to capture enough of the pleasurable insanity of its live act to render listeners blissfully smitten.
Commonly compared to Tom Waits, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, Man Man’s exciting, somewhat experimental style is one that has multiple musical manifestations. In its own words, Man Man’s music has similar aural qualities to “log flumes,” “soda popinski,” “kung fu,” “magic” and “mangos.” On top of that, the band claims to be influenced by “the banana ghost,” “the yeti” and “neon skunks.” Upon hearing Six Demon Bag, listeners understand why these random comparisons and inspirations aren’t altogether inaccurate.
From the musically simple and short piano-driven song “Feathers” to the ultra upbeat, frenetic “Black Mission Goggles,” Man Man delivers a type of studio performance hard to rival. Vocalist, or as he prefers to call himself, “throatist” Honus Honus employs his rough, gravely and passionate voice quite successfully throughout the course of the album. Perhaps his most versatile vocal performance is on “Ice Dogs,” a song that transforms itself from rock to doo-wop, all while employing unorthodox pauses and varying key signatures.
There is seemingly no musical territory uncharted for this group, as they even have a track, “Skin Tension,” that is a musical reminder of a pirate-style waltz. Perhaps the most accessible song on the album is “Van Helsing Boombox,” which is a lament of loss. In the chorus, Honus Honus brilliantly explains, “When anything that’s anything becomes nothing / that’s everything and / nothing is the only thing you / ever seem to have.”
However, the increased accessibility of some songs shouldn’t overshadow the master composition heard on several tracks. “Tunneling Through the Guy” is a song with multiple musical movements that work to fit perfectly with one another and set a classical music feel to the track.
Overall, Six Demon Bag is an album that illustrates Man Man’s excellent studio quality sound rare for a band that is highly touted as a great live act.
Tim Gerz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.