Man Man | Rabbit Habits (Anti-)

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cd_manman.jpgWithin the first few seconds of "Mister Jung Stuffed," the opening track on their Anti- debut Rabbit Habits, I knew I had been an idiot for not tracking them down sooner.

 

 

There have only been a few times in my life that I can remember knowing that I was going to love a band based on the first few seconds of the first time I ever heard one of their CDs. In recent memory, there was Animal Collective's Feels and Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (okay, okay, I was late getting into both of those bands), but I can't think of many more than that.

I'd been hearing about Man Man for a little over a year now. One of my trusted music buddies told me that they sound like Captain Beefheart singing sea shanties (sold!), but somehow I never got around to hearing their couple of records on Ace Fu. In the time since then, all of the comparisons that get thrown around about them were tossed in my direction: they sound like Beefheart, they sound like Zappa, they sound like Tom Waits (with whom they now share a label). All of these musicians are people that I desperately love. They toured with Modest Mouse, whom I also love, and dropped by St. Louis; hell, last month they played in Columbia opening for Islands, and I almost went to see that. Somehow I missed them both places. (Their live show already borders on legendary, too; they've also toured with Arcade Fire and The Fiery Furnaces, both of whom I've seen recently.) But within the first few seconds of "Mister Jung Stuffed," the opening track on their Anti- debut Rabbit Habits, I knew I had been an idiot for not tracking them down sooner.

While all of the comparisons that have been beaten into the ground turned out to be true (Listen to the cracked out, Inca Roads-era Zappa xylophone line in "The Ballad of Butter Beans"! Listen to the foggy, Waitsian white man blues instrumentation of "Whale Bones"! etc.), there's a lot more here than I even could have imagined. For one thing, they bear similarities to a lot of modern bands I love. Oddly enough, I didn't initially piece together that the modern bands they are comparable to are the very bands I know that they have toured with. Lead singer Honus Honus' manly growl bears a lot of similarities to Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock and the structure of Rabbit Habits recalls that of The Lonesome Crowded West, and "Mysteries of the Universe Unraveled" sounds more like a Unicorns song than Islands' songs do, despite the fact that Islands is made up of a couple of ex-Unicorns.

What's amazing on top of all of this is how much ground they cover in Habits' relatively brief 47 minutes. They start out frantic and hyperactivity-inducing, and by the time they get to "Whale Bones," the album's closer, they are genuinely melancholy in an earned way, and somehow it all seems very natural. That is to say that this is an album that bears to be played constantly during the summer and the winter, when you're in a good mood or a bad mood, or pretty much just whenever. Which is good, because I have a lot of catching up to do. A | Pete Timmermann

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