I cannot hear out of my right ear right now, at least, not adequately. I noticed this particular problem just before midnight last night, while walking east on Spring Garden. The hearing hasn’t improved, and, sure, part of me is worried about this. Most of me is irritating by the static whistling in there. But most of me knows the hearing will return in another day or so. This is the price you have to pay, sometimes. Man Man are fucking loud. It’s popular to compare them to Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart, but, ya know, fuck that. Beefheart has always been a bluesman, even in the midst of his noisemaking. Waits and Man Man occasionally chart similar musical terrain, but if Man Man is taking cues from Waits, they’re taking what Waits has done and bringing it to the point of Bacchanalian excess. As a younger man, Waits was a balladeer. When he got older, he became obsessed with found sound and bizarre percussion, and integrated those sounds into his thematic oeuvre (yes, oeuvre, thank you), with the hookers and loneliness and cigarettes in dank Eastern European bars with carnies at 4AM. That’s Tom Waits. Man Man is their own beast.
Man Man deals in heartbreak and melancholy, certainly. But they wrap it up in the twisted, half-ironic machismo, and frame it all in the violent bravado of the revolution.
Rabbit Habits is the band’s third album, following debut The Man in a Blue Turban With a Face and 2006’s brilliant Six Demon Bag. In an interview with Pitchfork, Man Man calls Rabbit Habits their “pop album”, which, of course, is appropriate for an album that makes use of fireworks and dogs-barking-in-bathtubs as percussion. Last night was the album release party at the Starlight Ballroom. To get everyone really in the mood, someone made the decision to play Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on loop while the previous band (Dirty Projectors) took down their set, and Man Man set up. Needless to say, after 30 minutes or so of the song on repeat, everyone was in a super mood.
Man Man doesn’t banter during the set. They don’t say thank you, until the very, very end. The don’t give song titles. They don’t give explanation. They plug in, and bang everything they can reach as hard as they can, as fast as they can, and, impressively enough, in really, really good rhythm. The band is tight, which is all the more impressive given how insane they are. Leader singer and synthesizer/piano guy, Honus Honus climbs all over and under his equipment, like he’s looking for something desperately. Sitting next to him is the drummer, while the rest of the band stands behind the two throughout the show, switching places and instruments. They are relentless and brutal and fantastic.
How is Rabbit Habits? It’s hard to really talk about an album the day after you first heard it, but, early on, it might now quite measure up to Six Demon Bag, but, in a way, it most resembles the frenetic live show that makes Man Man what they are. But, hell, it’s still better than everything else out there.