MAN ON MAN is an absolutely electric debut album
In the middle of the pandemic, boyfriends Joey Holman and Roddy Bottum (Imperial Teen, Faith No More) decided to head out west. They drove across the country from the bustling streets of Brooklyn, New York, to the quiet Southern California beach town of Oxnard. This excessively long car ride became a perfect place to manifest some creative ideas—a place to plot how they would spend the rest of the pandemic while still being able to create. Thus, the music project MAN ON MAN was born, along with their self-titled debut album.
MAN ON MAN is unapologetically queer indie rock goodness. Each song is a delight—from fun, fast-paced tunes to softer, more introspective ones. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bottum discussed the positive side of the loneliness that the COVID-19 quarantine brought, saying, “isolation for us has been a time of writing and making art, and it brought us a lot closer together.”
The album opens with “Stohner,” which establishes the sound throughout the rest of it. It’s about six minutes long, and while it doesn’t have too many lyrics, the song builds up around them. It’s a slow, heavy, dreamlike indie rock sound with an electronic twist. The sound of the song goes well with the lyrics, which start off with, “I like it when you’re driving, and it’s nighttime and it feels so right.” “Stohner” has the bittersweet melody of a late-night drive with someone you love.
The band’s debut single “Daddy” is steamy and full of sensual innuendos, which blends together with the indie rock beat. The music video, which looked like a blast to make, features Holman and Bottum in their underwear. Bottum talks about the inspiration behind the video: “there’s enough representation in the gay community of young, hairless pretty men. It feels good to represent a faction of our culture that isn’t squeaky and manicured.” This makes for an especially important debut song, as it establishes who MAN ON MAN is. They are here to switch things up, to blend together sensuality, queerness and indie rock.
“It’s So Fun (To Be Gay)” has the innocent yet cheeky sound of the opening jingle to an animated cartoon, something along the lines of Adventure Time. It’s chilled out and peaceful, featuring whistles and a light guitar strum, as well as a really nice harmony. About halfway through the album is “1983,” another single, which shows itself. Similar to the other songs, it features a small portion of lyrics and more instrumentals. It has the sound of something along the lines of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” but with a modern electronic twist. While the lyrics discuss sexual matters, they are used in a way to tell a different story, one that isn’t totally about sex. It’s about a relationship and the craving to see each other again.
“Baby, You’re My Everything” is a love letter to a very special person. The lyrics offer a sort of gospel or churchy vibe, using phrases like “praise and glory” and “angels we have heard on high.” The song uses these phrases to talk about a powerful tug of love. This song is vulnerable and sappy in all the right ways.
The album takes a more somber tone towards the end, with songs like “Lover” and “Please Be Friends.” The sound of these two is slower and deeper than the rest of the songs. “Lover” has what sounds like a ticking clock in the background of the song, and although this song doesn’t have deeply sensual lyrics, it’s even more intimate than the others. Although the lyrics are sparse, the song found a way to be deeply personal and gentle. “Please Be Friends” starts off with a soft piano before leading into talking-style singing with a simple beat.
The album ends with “It Floated,” still maintaining the sadder, more melancholy energy of the last couple of songs. It has more lyrics than the other tracks, using the metaphor of floating to talk about a relationship. It has a simple electronic and piano beat, with reverb on the vocals ending the album off on a soft, personal and loving note.
The best part about MAN ON MAN as a whole is the love that seeps from each of the songs at their core. By the end of the album, the listener will be sure of one thing: the relationship between Holman and Bottum is strong and, above all else, beautiful.