Man Man is a five-man
indie rock band from Philidelphia
who play a strange style of experimental music reminiscent of Eastern European folk music
(albeit Americanized). They are known for their surreal lyrics and energetic live shows, at which they often play their music faster or slower than the recorded version and usually include improvisation. On stage the band members dress in white and most play multiple instruments over the course of a single song. They have been described as a sort of poor man's Tom Waits
, presumably for their "junkyard orchestra" style, something Tom Waits is particularly known for. Most of the music is piano-based, though a myriad of other instruments (and non-instruments of course) are involved, including saxophone
, key pipe
, and assorted types of drums
The Man Man band members are Honus Honus, Chang Wang, Sergei Sogay, Pow Pow, and Critter Crat. I feel sorry for all those guys and the ordeals they must have had growing up. In any case, they're "indie famous" now, so I guess it turned out well in the end. Honus Honus is the band leader, playing the honky-tonk piano that most of the songs are based around, and singing the main vocals. The other members provide backup vocals. For all the silly voices, wild shouting, and anatopic music style, the singing is surprisingly heartfelt. Honus Honus croons in the gravelly lamenting voice of a young man who is just learning the pain of losing a love. It's similar to Tom Waits (both are on Anti-Records), but Waits gives an impression of wisdom: vast, grainy, tattered experience. Honus doesn't exactly sound naive, but the energy and resilience of youth is present along with the deep wounds of heartbreak. Man Man albums are full of dichotomy. One song may sound completely serious, and the next is basically garbled yelling and rampant accordion. On another the lyrics may make no sense and the music may be so somber it draws a tear, or the other way around. There is no telling. One thing that is guaranteed is pure energy. The quirky names reflect the characters; these guys like to have fun.
There are three albums out in the world that Man Man are responsible for:
The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face (2004)
Six Demon Bag (2006)
Rabbit Habits (2008)
These albums are arranged chronologically as well as by reverse-accessibility. Rabbit Habits, as Honus Honus puts it in an interview with Pitchfork Media, "is their pop album." It's recognizable as Man Man, but so subdued compared to their earlier work. Six Demon Bag and The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face are both far more adventurous in exploring a new sound. With songs like Young Einstein On The Beach on the former, Man Man has no fear of appearing weird, they relish in it. Personally, I like Six Demon Bag the best. It's similar to Man-Turban-Face, but the songs are so much better. The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face gets extra points for having a song called "Against The Peruvian Monster," which is a deliciously obscure reference to a comic book cover that was on screen for a couple seconds in the cult film The Holy Mountain. If you like what people call avant garde music (think The Residents) you'll probably like this, so paint your face, dig that old bongo out of the closet, and try out some Man Man, man.