Bands Coming to Campus
Whatever you had planned this Saturday night, whether it was reading a Sartre play alone in your room and guiltily acting out each part, or watching reruns of Friends on your girlfriend’s iBook, think again! Instead, come check out Man Man, one of the most original bands to emerge in recent years, as it brings its jam-packed U.S. tour to a close at our own ’Sco. If you still haven’t had your fill, return next Thursday, April 19 to see the Narrator, a Chicago-based post-punk band led by Jesse Woghin, OC ’02. Both shows promise to be worth your while.
On its acclaimed second album, entitled Six Demon Bag, Man Man defies genres, bending and contorting styles with its oddball assortment of raucous sea shanties, psychadelic circus freakouts and macabre vaudevillian delights. Rejecting the layered, guitar-driven sound that dominates so much of the indie music scene, Man Man incorporates a grab bag of horns, klezmer, accordion, drunken player piano and syncopated marching drums to create a strange and wonderful world that is as cohesive as it is surprising.
Honus Honus, the band’s ringleader and howling front man, sounds like a more theatrical Tom Waits, while the childlike background vocals on tracks such as “English Buudd” and “Black Mission Goggles” bring to mind the delectable soundtrack to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Man Man shifts tempi, styles and moods seamlessly in a way that gives the album a kind of internal logic that is difficult to penetrate, but nonetheless thrilling. As a listener, you feel as though you’ve been suddenly tossed onto the caboose of some madcap circus train full of freaks and outcasts, but instead of shuddering in the corner, you become their friends.
The punky “Young Einstein” sounds like some kind of warthog dance party with its jerky rhythms and snorted vocals. “English Buudd,” with its chorus “Fee Fi Fo Fum / I smell the blood of an Englishman!” mixes Baroque chord progressions with twangy, washed out guitars and syncopated drums, while “Black Mission Goggles” sounds almost like an early Skatalites recording; however, it would be very wrong to label it Ska or, for that matter, to label anything on this album.
Overall, Man Man’s second album (now just under a year old) is definitely worth a good listen, and word on the street is they put on a hard-hitting, hair-splitting live show in which they use different instruments for almost every song. So don’t miss it!
Next Thursday, be sure to check out the Narrator, who has also just released its second album, All That to the Wall, and is currently touring college campuses and small venues across the nation. The album, released on Narrator guitarist Woghin’s label, Flameshovel, is a welcome throwback to the guitar-driven, angsty post-punk that dominated much of the indie rock scene in the early 1990s. In those days, bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement were playing gymnasiums and smoke-filled dance halls before grunge reached its seismic peak and declared Kurt Cobain its messiah.
The album sounds like the work of some seventeen-year-old stoner prodigies, though Woghin and the rest of the group are actually in their late twenties and have a considerable amount of experience in the music business. The album is polished and well-conceived, but retains a kind of nervous, youthful energy, with lyrics about rebellion, isolation and Gen X disillusionment.
“August 32nd” captures this wanton nostalgia perfectly, as it begins with the lines, “Standing on the corner of 65th and Lex / smoking a joint with my kid sis.”
Even the band’s own story has a kind of ’90s slacker aesthetic.
“Some of us worked at a record store together and then met one of the other guys through an ex-girlfriend,” Woghin said in a recent phone interview. “It was a pretty inauspicious beginning, I guess.”
Woghin, who plays guitar and co-writes songs with the other band members, is excited to play at the ’Sco, which he fondly remembers as being “an awesome venue for a college campus,” since playing at other colleges has been very hit or miss.
“Half the time you’re just playing in some cafeteria for a bunch of kids who don’t know your music and are just there for the free snacks…It can be very stratifying, like the audience is either really welcoming or almost bummed that you’re there.”
So come support the Narrator next week for what promises to be an energetic, no-frills rock concert that just might help remind you why you got into music in the first place.