Man Man

    {grate 3.5} Welcome to Man Man’s third carnival-rock spectacle, Rabbit
    Habits, a finely honed blend of hobo weirdness and indie introspection from one
    of Philadelphia’s finest
    experimental outfits. The territory isn’t new — ringleader Honus Honus and his
    band of bearded tricksters thoroughly explored these charming back alleys on
    past release Six Demon Bag, but now they’ve ditched most of the percussive
    bustle and noisy charades in favor of meticulously fat-free pop.

    The show starts with the immediately bouncy “Mister Jung
    Stuffed,” the feminine background vox and Honus’ cracking yelps still intact,
    along with a tight bass/organ punch to keep the jam from getting too out of
    hand. Then we’ve got “Hurly/Burly,” whose jittery helium-pitched chorus holds
    back an otherwise inspired and eclectic marimba and guitar-lick frenzy. Onward
    to a cartoon-montage intro leading into the character-driven track “The Ballad
    of Butter Beans,” which concerns a first-person narrator chasing B.B. for her
    own sinister ends. Also, a New Orleans
    funeral march finds its way into “Big Trouble,” a morose take on mundane living
    through the eyes of a man/zombie lamenting his bad luck with girls. Slightly to
    the band’s detriment, the tune never gets truly heartfelt because of their
    preoccupation with weirdo shrieks and spaced-out sound effects.

    But the minimal piano ballad “Doo Right” serves as an
    interlude to creepier and ever-polished fare; for the rest of the voyage, Man
    Man attempts nearly everything from makeshift kitchen-sink techno on “El
    Azteca” to jauntily crafted nuggets like “Rabbit Habits” and the instant-single
    strut of “Top Drawer,” a perfect entry point on the Man Man train. This sums up
    Rabbit Habits perfectly in relation to group‘s other records: pick this one up
    first to ease yourself with the crafted Tom Waits-lite stylistics, and then
    move on to Six Demon Bag’s manic delivery for a taste of the harder stuff.

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