Man Man: Life Fantastic

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Man Man
Life Fantastic
(Anti/Epitaph)

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Life Fantastic, the latest album from the Philadelphia-based experimental group known as Man Man, covers the distance between innovative, esoteric music and the catchy, melodic indie sound that finds a place in the mainstream with its broad range and diversity of musical styles.  For those who might not be familiar with the band, their sound is like a marriage between Tom Waits’ vocal eccentricities and penchant for piano, with Dan Deacon’s flair for the electronic, sprinkled with a dash of stylistic eclecticism ranging from Caribbean Jazz to downtrodden blues.

 The opening song, “Knuckle Down,” is one of the best on the album with its unique atmosphere created by the use of bright percussion, up-tempo vocals, and a synth sound somewhat reminiscent of a dead phone line. (It’s a bit like Harry Nilsson’s “One” if it were being chased down by international spies from a James Bond film).  The title track is another standout and has even more of a narrative, orchestral feel, somewhere between Bowie and The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” and it flaunts its 1960’s air with an early reference to Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.”  The album also includes a few other standouts such as the more mellow “Steak Knives” and “Haute Tropique,” which has a brighter, old-world charm.  The eleven tracks include a few choice gems as well as a few that might be relegated to the “experiment” pile.  But, without question, the album as a whole is a worthwhile musical journey.

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