When Rock critics run short on adjectives while describing a band, they typically fall back on an old saw like, “They don’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard before.” Philadelphia’s Man Man might well be the band for which that statement is wildly true long before the critics start searching their brainpans for descriptively colorful comparisons. In fact, it might not be a bad place to start. Clearly, frontman Ryan Kattner (often referred to by his nom du rocque Honus Honus) and Man Man (whose pseudonymous identities include Pow Pow, T. Moth, Chang Wang and Critter) sound like plenty of things you’ve heard before, they merely sound like things you’ve never heard together before, particularly on their fourth and perhaps best album, Life Fantastic.
Produced by Bright Eyes’ sonic magician Mike Mogis, Life Fantastic is a swirling miasma of hallucinaphonic sound and fury, a Klezmer carnival orchestra influenced by the Nairobi Trio and playing a soundtrack for the midway freak show from sheet music for the likes of Pavement, Frank Zappa, Sixteen Horsepower and Gogol Bordello and pages from a beat poet’s drunken journal that have been shuffled by a witch-flattening wind.
In the live setting, Man Man become the visual embodiment of their sonic oddballity, donning all white outfits (overalls, cut-offs, wife beaters, whatevers) and warpaint, while translating their studio sounds on a variety of instruments, both traditional (flute, euphonium, sousaphone, melodica, clavinet and Moog Little Phatty) and slightly less traditional (breakable plates, pots and pans, silverware, noisemakers and fireworks).Man Man isn’t just a band doing a gig on a tour for a new album, it’s avant garde theatre and Chinese new year and Tom Waits’ skid row barbeque all rolled into one exquisite musical clusterhump.
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