Under Review: Man Man – Rabbit Habits

Many things can happen when a band signs to a label. While most choose to remember instances where a label has manipulated a band’s distinctive sound into something more mainstream (see The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife on Capitol), many couplings of band and label have yielded phenomenal results (like The Replacements‘ four albums with Sire). Philadelphia’s Man Man, who previously recorded for Brooklyn’s Ace Fu Records, recently signed to Anti-, home to Bob Mould, Nick Cave and Tom Waits. Yes, the group’s latest, Rabbit Habits, is definitely their most accessible to date. But by no means is a tamer Man Man a tame Man Man. Unlike their previous two albums, which featured circus-esque lyrics over Eastern European-influenced musical stomping, Rabbit Habits is driven by a buzzy electric piano and playful marimba (or both on “Top Drawer” and the Oingo Boingo-inflected “The Ballad Of Butter Beans”). Of course, leader Honus Honus‘ trademark gruff yowl is the focal point of most of the tunes, but the impressively high level of musicianship really steals the show. Songs like the folksy “Whalebones” and the title track might not be quite freakout-y enough for hardcore “Fan Fans”, but there are certainly enough moments that cater to both longtime and new listeners. Man Man may have toned their act down a bit, but I’m not worried that they’re going to be normal anytime soon.

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~ by E. on April 23, 2008.

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