Release Date: Apr 8, 2008
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Rock, Experimental
It's rare that someone as analytical and disinterested as I am is incapacitated by an album. But as soon as opener "Mister Jung Stuffed" staggered out of its knot of tape noise into a classic spy riff to begin Rabbit Habits, Man Man's third LP, my bodily vessel rebelled. The song jolted through any free joint or muscle it could conscript, pushing me off my chair and into a Lindy Hop with a desk lamp.
Anybody who's seen Man Man perform knows that their CDs don't do justice to their live shows. They're a visual band: woolly bearded, usually wearing tennis shorts and warpaint, and thrashing around the stage like wildmen to tricky time changes. Rabbit Habits finds the band relying less on shock value and absurdity, and more intent on making a congruent album.
The whole idea of Philly fruitcakes Man Man releasing an album that sounds like a dusted deconstruction of Tom Waits’s Swordfishtrombones – complete with grumbling old man affectations – on the same label that releases albums by Waits is too much of a nutty coincidence not to be a cockeyed po-mo parody. Certainly, some would question the rationale of a group like Man Man blowing their entire measly recording budget on an inside joke, but if you’ve seen how much time they spend on coordinating their stagewear and makeup for their yowling singalongs, staging such an elaborate joke at an aging hipster’s expense doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility. At least Captain Beefheart will be tickled.
Spoiler alert: The men of Man Man wear funny outfits, have excessive body hair, and tend to go balls-out live. The merry band of Philly pranksters, led by Beefheartian singer/pianist Honus Honus, emcees a three-ring circus on third LP Rabbit Habits. It's dinged with xylophone, backwoods hollers, and a sense of clown-car urgency, and it would be easy to pass it all off as schtick – and mind you, much of it is – but opening on gripper "Mister Jung Stuffed" and not letting loose until the final curtain-dropping notes of "Whalebones," Rabbit Habits lingers in monochromatic, spotlighted visages.