We’re taking the auspicious occasion of our Philly bros Man Man playing at the Roxy in West Hollywood tonight to repost their Gen F from F28, and also to let the fans out there know that asking for “Man Man” a couple blocks south of the Roxy will make you about a thousand brand new best friends. Either way you’re gonna have a good time.
Man Man rock non-stop non-sequiturs
By Elliot Aronow
Although Bright Eyes recently hit big by having the number one and two singles on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, Philadelphia’s Man Man probably won’t be doing the same anytime soon. But they’re going to keep trying. “I’m convinced we will have our fluke hit pop song like [Jethro Tull’s] ‘Bungle in the Jungle’,” says vocalist/Rhodes player Ryan Kattner. “And if not,” adds drummer/arranger Thomas Keville, “then at least people have been leaving our sets smiling and singing some of the words.”
Although landing a hit single would be a happy accident, Man Man’s approach to wowing crowds with their ramshackle mix of swampy Captain Beefheart absurdity, Motown pop, breakneck thrash and Latin rhumba is anything but. According to Keville, their live show is completely choreographed to create one “meticulously considered single composition.” That’s a good thing, because if it wasn’t so methodical, Man Man’s non-stop manic mixture of guitars, keyboards, hand drums, marimbas and wind-up children’s toys might just fall apart right in front of you.
It’s not that Kelville and the rest of Man Man are trying to be markedly odd or—ack!—avant, it’s just that their heady free jazz background made their approach to writing songs and playing gigs a little twisted. “Music is pop to me when it repeats a musical idea more than once,” explains Keville. “So all of our madness is an attempt to execute good pop.”
While most bands hook audiences with a big chorus, the best moments of a Man Man set occur when they’re dodging a seemingly imminent musical collapse with total finesse—when they’re running full-tilt into a three-minute exploration of 3000000 BPM rock only to pump the brakes and take the music (and the crowd) into an entirely different musical or historical space. Just when you think they’re gonna combust, guitarist Steven Dufala will subtly drop out of the mix, pick up a trumpet, and start blowing a warbling staccato melody that suggests a delicate stroll through New Orleans at dusk. Without any interruption, the rest of the band will slow down to half speed and join him in a shuffle led by a steady Rhodes-driven groove—one-two, one-two. And just like that, they’ll be playing perfectly measured music with every accent and beat in total sync. Something you can dance to. If this whole thing sounds crazy, it is. But that isn’t going to stop Man Man from hustling to score their fluke hit single. As the band’s shows prove, stranger things have happened.