Creatively Uninhibited with White War Paint All Over
My friend Rosemary was always on the cutting edge of new music. She frequently exposed me to stuff that I never would have heard of, like Kings of Convenience, American Football, Of Montreal, Badly Drawn Boy, and lots of other bands. One day in 2006 she sent me an mp3 of a song called “Engrish Bwudd” by a band called Man Man and I was completely stunned within the first few seconds of listening.
It was from an album called “Six Demon Bag” and it was like a wonderful, actually-enjoyable blend of Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and circus music. I loved everything about it. The carnival-esque feel, the very-multi-layered vocals, the bouncy minor keys, the nonsensical lyrics, the strange percussion, and especially the live roomy sound of the record.
The whole album was a treat to my ears and unlike anything I’d ever heard before. Truly unique, fun, and musical, which is a rare combination. Every single song on this album is great and seriously so fun to listen to.
The band members had the greatest pseudonyms, too. The singer goes Honus Honus. The drummer is Pow Pow. The bassist is Sergei Sogay. Others include Blanco, Les Mizzle, G. Clinton Killingsworth, and San Bañon Pisto. Anyway, I caught them on tour and they were mind-blowing. It was a huge band, probably like 7 people, with a mountain of gear and the whole band wore all-white tennis clothing with white war paint on their faces.
I think I saw them three times, each time in a successively larger venue with successively larger groups of hipster teenagers “dancing” rambunctiously right in front of the stage. Man Man always put on an excellent show, but the crowds spoiled it for me and I stopped going to see them. I’m just a cranky old man, I guess.
After buying “Six Demon Bag,” I bought their first album, “The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face.” It was also excellent, real creative but with less sophisticated songwriting. Then their third album, Rabbit Habbits came out, which is seriously entirely excellent. Great, great songwriting and totally uninhibited. Another excellent album that probably would have dropped my jaw just as quickly as Six Demon Bag did. The song “Harpoon Fever (Queequeg’s Playhouse)” is a real brain-twister. Probably my favorite on the album.
The following albums never really grabbed me, but I think it’s time to give them another chance. They actually released some new music in late 2018 and performed a few shows. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come! If you’re a fan of Man Man, let me know what I’m missing. If you check them out because of this video, let us know your thoughts in the video comments.