Man Man

Man Man is a fearlessly unique band from Philadelphia. The group's fifth full length album On Oni Pond features an arresting reconstruction of the group's visionary sound – stripped to its core and rebuilt as something new and compelling yet still very much Man Man. This marked shift is a direct result of an intensive collaboration between the band's frontman, Honus Honus, and drummer Pow Pow, who has assumed a new-found prominence in the songwriting process, bringing an exhilarating array of new rhythmic ideas to the mix. "With this album we got to do something that very few bands or creative people get to do which is a reboot, and one that feels natural," comments Honus Honus.

In a review of a track called "Head On," Pitchfork writes that Man Man "have taken their licks and endured, evolving from their excitable and divisive Beefheart/Zappa-influenced early work into rich and resonant piano pop that values populism over provocation."

The compositions on the new album were honed by the band members along with producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit) into a compelling mash-up of Fear Of Music era Talking Heads, classic soul, psychedelia, hip hop, and 50's rock and roll. With its imaginative yet economical rhythms, huge hooks, and overriding sense of urgency, On Oni Pond melds these seemingly disparate influences into an unexpectedly lush, melodic album, exquisitely consolidated by the band's unique and affecting vision.

"This is a strange and beautiful record but it's also head on and fearless," says Honus Honus. "It's not a record that's going to flirt with you, this is a record that's asking you out. If you get into bed with us there's going to be a relationship."

Man Man's latest also expresses Honus Honus' evolution as a lyricist. Consistently inventive, the lyrics now have a new poignancy and insight that makes this album as personal and reflective as it is joyous. The thematic centerpiece of the record is the bittersweet, deconstructed soul anthem "Head On." Simultaneously melancholy and inspiring, the track features a unique take on personal resilience exemplified by the lines, "Are you dreaming of death? Are there ghosts in your chest?" and "I need new skin for this old skeleton of mine 'cause this one that I'm in has let me down once again over time," which build into the refrain "Hold onto your heart, hold it high above flood waters, hold onto your heart, never let nobody drag it under."

With On Oni Pond, Man Man has delivered a beautifully weird and unforgettable collection of songs. From the pounding syncopated drumming, psychedelic organ and impassioned crooning of "Pink Wonton" to the sneering new wave dub of "King Shiv" and the big beat bratty swagger of "Loot My Body," this is an undeniably ambitious band reborn to new, focused greatness.

Nobody grows up wanting to be an artist's artist. Appreciated by the sub sect of the sub sect is like being the beauty queen at the leper colony. Hell, anybody who claims they grew up wanting to even be an artist rather than an astronaut or a Cthulhu is probably lying or was a corny kid. Art is hard and degrading and generally bullshit. Your friends will find you irritating and your parents will certainly not throw you a parade. But if you're an artist you're an artist; the soul will fuck you every time, what can you do?

Shilpa Ray is, through no fault of her own, one of our unsung great artists. Having made her bones with the gothic Sturm und Drang of Beat The Devil and moving forward to the blues erosion of "…and The Happy Hookers" Shilpa Ray has been, armed only with an incomparable voice and harmonium haunted by the ghosts of dead lovers, perpetually crying in the wind, hoisting both middle fingers in the general direction of god. It's not a life a wise man would choose. Shilpa Ray kicks against the pricks but the pricks keep coming. But, again, what can you do?

Well, that's been the narrative until now. With Last Year's Savage (maybe a nod to Leonard Cohen maybe a nod to Barrence Whitfield) Shilpa Ray has taken the pain and dark funk of earlier sounds and made explicit the sublimity that was always there just below the surface. The conversation has become less a break up with doors ripped from their hinges and more the last pained pillow talk before parting. The obsessions with sex, death, bodily functions, and betrayal (not necessarily in that order) remain but Shilpa has expanded the palate to convey the resignation, the simmering discontent of an artist disenfranchised and held down. This is a quieter rage than the music Shilpa Ray has made before, more plaintive and considered, even if it's the quiet of a hand gripped tight on the axe handle. The music remains gorgeous and stirring in its directness while Shilpa herself remains, thankfully, entirely and inappropriately threatening.

Shilpa Ray has, up till this, point, yes, been an "artist's artist." Just about every musician in New York City, who doesn't hate her, loves her. Nick Cave sings her praises to all with the ears to listen (he brought her along a European tour as an opener and as a backup singer in the States). Obviously there are some who will always prefer lesser versions of the Shilpa Rays of the world (as if there could be more than one), preferably with blue eyes and On Brand Waifishness, but the truth will, eventually out. Talent this big can only be kept down for so long before the sky cracks and we all drown in the blood of angels. Either way, this is Shilpa Ray's year.

Current Lineup:

Shilpa Ray - Vocals/Harmonium/Keys

Jon "Catfish" DeLorme - Pedal Steel/Bass

Alistair Paxton - Guitar/Bass

Russ Lemkin - Drums

$18 ADV - $20 DOOR

Tickets Available at the Door

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