Tractor beam to fever dream
The experimental band that’s very fond of every musical style under the sun, Man Man, has just released their sixth full-length LP – Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between – after six begrudgingly long years of studio silence. Orchestrated by mad genius frontman singer-songwriter Ryan Kattner operating under the moniker “Honus Honus,” the project was birthed in Philly and then migrated over to LA. With a runtime of 51 minutes in 18 songs, this zany patchwork album teems with such an eclectic attack of sound that your scalp is sure to peel. Let Man Man hold your hand through the slow disintegration of their mind, allowing you to lose yours too in this simple walkthrough.
Instrumentally, the album is a sweaty, sonic fever-dream. It has too many instruments to count, playing in styles that range from, but not limited to, turn-of-the-century, old ‘50s love songs, the classical, pop, indie, ska, surf-rock, Spanish, electronic, tropical (and many more yet to be attempted to name). Sometimes you get the odd quirky, syncopated fuzz guitar solo, a gypsy jazz solo to background sax swings or maybe a chunky, ragtime piano riff. It’s almost frightening to think how many musicians got sucked into this, but it’s beautiful and undefinable. Sometimes a song could sound real pretty and effervescent and then suddenly it’ll just blast out these ominous haunted-carnival booms. It juxtaposes all over the place.
At times, it can be really somber and touching like in, probably the prettiest track, “Swan,” that has this dainty, celestial piano progression set to vocals along with nothing else – it’s minimal and raw. But, most of the time, it’s really blithe and freewheeling – something to sing along to in a drop-top mellowing at 100 on your local scenically-foliaged freeway. “Powder My Wig” sounds like the score to a Broadway play and “Cloud Nein” evocative of Richard Swift, another tune to play while home-alone in total abandon.
Lyrically, it is hilarious. From sardonic lines like, “someone to tell you you’re not a future peg/ moving like a two-by-four/ trying to escape the floor” (“Future Peg”), to the line, “she’s got salmonella” (“Goat”). Honus can get pretty nonsensical too with lines like, “your doppelganger is missing an arm,” and, “all I ever wanted was for you to kick my heart in baby” (“Inner Iggy”). It even dips into the postmodern with lyrics such as, “I had an epiphany watching infomercials,” and, “I wanted to write you the prettiest song in the world/ but, I got distracted/ so, I didn’t,” and into the absurd, “like a clergyman from the states/ who saw Satan 69-ing” (all found in a single track, “The Prettiest Song in the World”).
In sum, Man Man has released something seminal. It’s something to drop the needle on if in need of some droll humor, some catchy, weird melodies, some ambiguity and maybe some Monday-morning-mania. Even if you don’t know what you’re in the mood for, this has everything and more. It’s capricious as hell.