Man Man’s greatest sonic attributes could also be considered its most significant liabilities, particularly by labels looking to hitch their wagons to a commercial cash cow. And although Man Man has somehow managed to infiltrate the mainstream to a small degree with adjustments to their core sound, the band (which fluctuates from duo to trio to beyond) has retreated only slightly from its home on the musical fringe.
The Philadelphia group is regularly compared to Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits, and they regularly apologize with self-deprecating humor to the fans and families of those artists for those very same comparisons.
From their formation in 2003, Honus Honus (Ryan Kattner, to his mother) and Man Man have established themselves as true avant-gardians, recreating their shambolic flute/euphonium/melodica studio weirdness in the live setting with the use of shattering dishware, rattled pots, pans and cutlery as well as noisemakers and fireworks. Man Man’s first album, 2004’s The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face, was the primal-scream-therapy soundtrack to a documentary about the hallucinations of Salvador Dali’s mustache, a mash-up of Sixteen Horsepower, Gogol Bordello and Squirrel Nut Zippers as fever dreamed by Danny Elfman and executed by Ernie Kovacs’ Nairobi Trio tripping on Owsley’s industrial grade acid.
By the time Man Man dropped their fourth album, 2011’s Mike Mogis-produced Life Fantastic, they’d toned down their more unhinged moments and drifted toward a more palatably centric funhouse version of Modest Mouse (who they’ve opened for on numerous occasions in recent years), with a darker, more introspective vibe. Since then, Man Man has helped create a new genre called Doom Wop with the celestially weird supergroup Mister Heavenly and expanded on Life Fantastic with the slightly more conventional but still weirder-than-the-average-bear On Oni Pond.
If you’re looking for an Indie Pop-meets-New Wave-meets-’60s-noir-detective-soundtrack kind of thing, Man Man could be your cup of peyote tea.
Man Man’s free show on Fountain Square is part of the every-Friday MidPoint Indie Summer series.
MAN MAN headlines the free MidPoint Indie Summer show on Fountain Square this Friday. More info here .