Review Summary: Shave and a haircut -- two bits
Polish isn't something that normally comes to mind when someone mentions Man Man, but their latest album Life Fantastic
is so meticulously clean for an album that bears the Man Man moniker, almost to the point of some confusion as to whether or not frontman Honus Honus has traded in his tennis shorts and “creepy man on the bus” mustache for a pressed suit and a business cut. Well, worries be spared. On first glance it might seem as if producer Mike Mogis, who mostly known for slapping his name on the credits of anything released by Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek label, has managed to drain the weirdness from rickety carnival fun house that is Man Man, but after all these are still Honus Honus' songs and regardless of the studio sheen placed upon them, they still, at their heart, are the bizarre ramblings of a man that has fun house mirrors for eyes. Honus Honus still spits out his verses in a way that falls somewhere in between someone breaking a secret at the bar and Tom Waits if he managed to spit out the hairball that's lodged at the back of his throat, that being said, compared to his voice on previous Man Man albums, he has toned back his schizophrenic ramblings making things a bit more inviting. The way that Man Man have approached songwriting on Life Fantastic
has also made it a more inviting listen overall. Where over the last few years they took traditional pop structures and warped them into these strange musical odysseys that were as uncomfortable as they were intriguing, the songs on Life Fantastic
are fully content existing within the realms of their 60's pop influence, using only the occasional freak out to shock the listener right when they are starting to get comfortable. Every once and a while this new “happier” Man Man gets a little too carried away, leading to a few campy moments, and while it is true that “campy” can perfectly describe some of the greatest moments in Man Man's catalog, these moments when they appear on Life Fantastic
are more likely to bring a shake of the head than a nod of approval. Luckily these moments of doo-wop overindulgence are few and far between and are quickly forgotten in the scheme of things.
might not be the best album that Man Man have released, or the perfect manifestation of their “sound”, but for what it's worth it's a welcome reminder of all the things that they do right. The experimentation found on Life Fantastic
, for the most part, works rather well within the gypsy circus that is Man Man but even at its best it makes one wonder what it could have sounded like without the meds.