Review Summary: ah geez, would you please come homeThe Good Sweat
begins with an organ hum giving way to strummed acoustic guitar and it ends with fire and brimstone. "The terror felt from nightmares as a kid comes back in stages", singer Stephen G Kelly muses on "Kenlock"; it's as apt a descriptor as any for this beguiling, multi-faceted album, somehow both a slow burn and full of offhand, jagged energy like lightning sparking across the tracks. You may come away from The Good Sweat
touched, amused or full of that same electric energy, but you won't come away the same as you were.
ManDancing's most marvelous quality is how they fit together all these angular puzzle pieces, making a gorgeous painting in a crooked frame. Drummer Thomas DeVinko is the band's secret weapon, his absolutely superb stickwork driving each song with a loose-limbed, frantic energy that borders on math rock. But he's piloting the band not through mathy nonsense but rather lean, razor-sharp bursts of indie rock that float along on delicate wings. Ben Petty and James Bauman, whose heat-haze shimmer guitars recall The Dangerous Summer's "The Permanent Rain" more than anything that chugs or slams, fill out the canvas with a lighter touch that perfectly offsets DeVinko's intensity. But Kelly is the glue at the centre holding it all together. Recalling, in his softer moments, Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull to uncanny levels, Kelly's acrobatic vocal range comfortably stretches from near-whisper to a coarse, throaty yell. But it's his deceptively clever songwriting which marks him as a talent more distinct than the sum of his influences, with lyrics running the gamut from rooftop blunts and binging Toblerones in a parking lot to plumbing the nightmare-fuelled hallways of his mind, and fantastic melodies which constantly mutate to match the elastic songs he's performing on. It's impossible to imagine The Good Sweat
cohering as it does without Kelly's shockingly disarming emotional sincerity to ground it.
Elastic really is the operative word. Hear how "Perch" starts out with a country-esque acoustic stomp, only to evolve into a towering inferno of a finale that would make The Receiving End of Sirens blush, in four minutes and change. Hear "Wall Spot" and "Johnny Freshman" wield empty space like a painter wields their brush, exploding exactly when the song demands and not a second earlier. Really, just listen to the album and hear how the band lock into an enviable groove a minute into "Kenlock" and never let it go for 36 minutes. ManDancing are the platonic ideal of a Bandcamp discovery, boasting a plethora of familiar influences in service of making music that is uniquely and charmingly theirs. All that's left now is to discover them.