February 27, 2006

Review: Man Man | Six Demon Bag

Man Man wants to play shaman to its listeners, leading us in a mad circle dance around a fire, a bar, an asylum or a whisky jar. On its recently issued sophomore set Six Demon Bag, the Philadelphia-based quintet pulls out all the stops to portray such "insanity:" pervasive carnival/gypsy backbeats; Sousa march bass lines; Eastern European and low French folk melodies; alternately growling, chanting and squealing vocals; bursts of discordant odd-time breaks; etc. However, on the record anyway, the architecture is too sound, the band too tight and well-ordered to be a genuine expression of the insanity or depravity or chaos or even of the frenzy Man Man puts on. While the music aptly signifies frenzy, insanity and depravity with virtuosity, the recording fails to embody and become these forces.

Man Man's cabaret-rock raucous sound will please listeners with a taste for the theatrically macabre. The band's commitment to its sound and outrageous musicianship could earn it a seemingly desired place in any carnival or gypsy caravan. But those who prefer the more soulful weirdness of folks who sound as if they have not chosen their lives as freakshows may be disappointed. The Man Man live spectacle, which earned favorable reviews at 2005's CMJ and SxSW festivals, likely achieves what the Six Demon Bag suggests. The record, issued last week on Ace Fu, documents the compositional elements of ritual mayhem, but lacks the risk in its performance. Risque perhaps, but not risky. When you see the shaman’s act as an act, he loses his power. -- Mr. Obb, clicky clicky Correspondent

[Buy Six Demon Bag at Insound]

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