Thank you Mike Mogis. The extraordinary indie producer of Bright Eyes has drenched every track of Philadelphia native Man Man’s 4th album, Life Fantastic with chaos and beauty. The product is an album that when played start to finish, sounds like a rock opera tragedy. Lead singer Honus Honus accompanied by Pow Pow, Chang Wang, Turkey Moth, and Jefferson deliver the raucous instruments and rock energy heard before, but this album will be their most twisted to date, in a morbidly good way.
“Knuckle Down” kicks off the album in familiar head-bobbing territory with loud grunts and howls and the dark tone sets in with lyrics like, “Our panic will burst like birds full of aspirin”. “Piranhas Club” is an upbeat surfer’s tune, very fun and full of goofy humour (“teaaar his limbs off!”), but nothing insane just yet. What follows is the energy blast Man Man has given their fans in the past, just with more depressing lyrics. “Dark Arts” is an emotional blast about coping with depression. Honus sounds like Kurt Cobain in “Steak Knives” under slow guitar picking and echo-y sound. “Haute Tropique” is a cannibal’s waltz, with Man Man’s instruments in full swing (xylophone, noise makers, horns, clavinet, sax to name a few) and is my favourite track on the album. There are tons of background vocals and great lines (“We were born who we were meant to be”). “Spooky Jookie” is perhaps the most frightening, in reference to a life slipping away to drugs (“She broke her teeth on an unsheathed piece of hard-tasting candy”).
The 40-second sound bit “Eel Bros” is a transitional element to the end that could suit the video game Super Mario Bros. The last 3 tracks summarize and represent our most vulnerable states of being. Honus rips our guts out in “Bangkok Necktie” and “Life Fantastic” has a huge guitar solo and an earthshaking climax. After the crash, “Oh! La Brea”, wraps up our tragedy beautifully, shifting away from the chaos. Beautiful strings play over lyrics on human suffering, and you can hear the human psyche scream “TAR PITS!” throughout the song as an analogy.
Honus proves himself to be one of rock’s best lyricists, but dig too deep in the album or compare too strongly with their past work, and you might be disappointed. This is a very mature Man Man. Fun, catchy, phantasmagorical work that lets its fans explore only as much as they want to.
The album is scheduled for release on May 10th.