Man Man: all types come out and all types turn rabid
June 18, 2010 1:32 PM   Subscribe

If you listen close enough you'll hear police sirens in the distance, water pipes humming, Chinese sweatshop workers listening to Chinese language radio programs and singing traditional Chinese sweatshop songs. And yes, even a barking dog somewhere in the distance. This is the sound that surrounds the sound of Man Man, a cast of characters who rotate around one Ryan Kattner (a.k.a. Honus Honus), a grown fellow who was once a military brat who missed the 1980s pop music of the United States. Based in Philadelphia, but not part of the scene, the band mixes a lot of influences. Though (too) often likened to Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart, Honus said "It's beyond flattering... but I just don't possess the same kinds of things those guys do." Their sound has also been likened to circus music, Viking vaudeville and manic Gypsy jazz, but the band has always insisted that what it plays is pop music. "Pop music has something catchy about it, whether it's a vocal or a rhythm or a keyboard line, whatever it is," said Pow Pow (real name Christopher Powell). Whatever their sound, they gained enough notoriety to tour with Modest Mouse (who they called "a gateway drug to better music"), and they're still at it. But enough with the words, time for some music videos! 10lb Moustache and Rabbit Habits are the two official videos, though Engrish Bwudd has inspired a number of fan-made vids, and even a belly dancing number. (More words and music inside)

Man Man have three albums out, and all of those tracks can be found on YouTube for your previewing pleasure, thanks to YT user AbuDun182, who also included the lyrics with each track.

The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face (2004)
1. Against the Peruvian Monster
2. 10lb Moustache
3. Zebra
4. Sarsparillsa
5. White Rice, Brown Heart
6. Gold Teeth
7. Magic Blood
8. The Fog or China
9. I, Manface
10. Man Who Make You Sick
11. Werewolf (On the Hood of Yer Heartbreak)

Six Demon Bag (2006) Ace Fu Records
1. Feathers
2. Engrish Bwudd
3. Banana Ghost
4. Young Einstein on the Beach
5. Skin Tension
6. Black Mission Goggles
7. Hot Bat
8. Push the Eagle's Stomach
9. Spider Cider
10. Van Helsing Boombox
11. Tunneling Through the Guy
12. Fishstick Gumbo
13. Ice Dogs

Rabbit Habits (2008) ANTI-
1. Mister Jung Stuffed
2. Hurly / Burly
3. The Ballad of Butter Beans
4. Big Trouble
5. Mysteries of the Universe Unraveled
6. Doo Right
7. Easy Eats or Dirty Doctor Galapagos
8. Harpoon Fever (Queequeg's Playhouse)
9. El Azteca
10. Rabbit Habits
11. Top Drawer
12. Poor Jackie
13. Whale Bones

Bonus: A cover of I'd Rather Go Blind, first recorded by Etta James in 1969. The song was supposed to be a key track on an EP for the Absolutely Kosher label, but the band "kind of hit a snag" and the band decided to make it a freebie.

There are also loads of live Man Man videos, (like their performance at Amoeba Records in 2008), and their live shows are where they truly shine. They started out opening for local Philly acts, and to make the most of their 30 to 45 minutes in the spotlight, they'd play non-stop. That hasn't changed too much, though they might actually take time to chat with the crowd a bit now, or get someone from the crowd to help bang the sh*t out of something on stage.
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
As for the bellydancing video, that very track is on a bellydancing compilation, Tribal Beats for the Urban Streets. It was really weird to see that tracklist, but upon seeing the dance, it makes more sense. Still seems a tad rowdy a song.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2010

Holy crap, thanks! I had completely forgotten about the awesomeness that is Man Man.

And you're right, the details are everything with them. The clicks of brass keys on Rabbit Habit— so great.
posted by functionequalsform at 1:49 PM on June 18, 2010

Wow, fantastic!!! Thank you for this!
posted by zarq at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2010

I found out about Man Man from the FlashPunk post a few months back. Black Mission Goggles was the track on a demo video.
posted by hellojed at 1:58 PM on June 18, 2010

likened to Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart

Much better than those guys.
posted by Faze at 2:00 PM on June 18, 2010

I've gotten into many an argument with my girlfriend about Man Man. While she hears original music, I hear someone trying to clone Tom Waits poorly.
posted by Drainage! at 2:07 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a strong sudden urge to learn belly dancing.
posted by infini at 2:27 PM on June 18, 2010

Man Man live on La Blogotheque.

Goddamn awesome post, filthy light thief
posted by One Thousand and One at 2:56 PM on June 18, 2010

While she hears original music, I hear someone trying to clone Tom Waits poorly.

You're both wrong and owe an apology to sailors of yore and probably a few Romas.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:59 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this! I was addicted to this video for the better part of a year. Blogoteque has many other great 'concerts a l'importer' too.
posted by stinker at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2010

They are heroic. Saw them opening for Girl Talk at a free UW campus show a few years ago. They were so good that I had to leave ten minutes into Girl Talk's set -- nothing against them, but they were only going to dilute the transcendent experience that is live Man Man.
posted by escabeche at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2010

I believe Girl Talk is one guy. His shows are crazy in their own way, but a it's vastly different kind of crazy from Man Man. The former is a single Mad Mashup Scientist, blending an amazing glut of pop tracks on the fly, while the latter is a cast of characters who make music with instruments, voices, and the very structures that surround them (Honus Honus wandered over to bang on the tent scaffolding while playing at Coachella). I agree, one needs to decompress from a Man Man show. Trying to pile on another experience can dilute the experience and make your head go a bit fuzzy.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2010

Man Man is indeed fantastic. Honus Honus once played my head at a show in Toronto. Was an honor.

I hear someone trying to clone Tom Waits poorly.

I've been saying that for the last 20 years of Tom Waits' own output.
posted by dobbs at 3:33 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, these guys are great live.

Also, I'm pretty positive somehow involving time travel, they wrote "Monkberry Moon Delight."
posted by saul wright at 3:38 PM on June 18, 2010

I've been saying that for the last 20 years of Tom Waits' own output.

And with that, the Tom Waits Battle of '10 erupted.

Or --hopefully-- not. But it does make me want to do an epic review of Waits musical career, as it's all a jumble of "junkyard jazz" in my head. Until today, I didn't realize that Tom found out about Captain Beefheart through Kathleen Brennan, despite having shared a manager with Beefheart in the 1970s.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:44 PM on June 18, 2010

I love this band. The Tom Waits comparison is horribly inaccurate. For me, they are easily one of the best bands of the last decade - they seemed to only have a momentary blip on the radar a few years back, but all of their albums are solid, their music gets better after repeated listens, and they manage to maintain a charming sincerity while also, well, making screeching circus music. It's wild and polished at the same time. I was hoping this FPP meant there was a new album out! But no. And I still haven't seen them live yet.
posted by molecicco at 4:03 PM on June 18, 2010

Forgotten link for the FPP: Man Man cover "Little Boxes" for the intro to Weeds. "Little Boxes" in the Weeds intro, prev.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:57 PM on June 18, 2010

A gateway drug to better music sounds like a backhanded compliment.

I got lucky and saw these guys live a while ago. I don't like their recorded music very much at all, but they are really fun in a club.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on June 18, 2010

I'm not cool enough to have heard of Man Man before. Now I've listened to a few of their songs, and I like them very, very much. Thanks, filthy light thief.
posted by twirlip at 9:03 PM on June 18, 2010

Not hip to Man Man before, but a big fan now. I am reminded of the time Andy Kaufman took his entire Carnegie Hall audience out for milk and cookies after the show.
posted by wsg at 9:38 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just came in to say a) how glad I am to see a really big, well-done post on Man Man, and b) how much I fucking love Man Man. I actually just saw a band tonight that made me think of them (the bill murray experience). I heard "Hurly/Burly" for the first time courtesy of You Ain't No Picasso, and I was in love pretty instantaneously. They're one of the few bands that I check up on every few weeks to see if they're going on tour yet... I see they're going to be on the west coast in September... but I'm not gonna get my hopes up. (COME TO THE NORTHEAST. PLEASE, ASAP, ETC.)

I'm gonna go dive headfirst into these links, now. Thanks Filthy Light Thief!
posted by lisawin at 11:04 PM on June 18, 2010

filthy, I daresay you missed Jeremy Mayhew's excellent video for Man Man's Banana Ghost (YT; .mov here), and a very well-made fan-vid for Mister Jung Stuffed.

Some members of the original line-up of the band also play under the moniker Whales and Cops - here's the rather odd video to ¡Futuro Futuro!.

Also worth exploring are the videos for other bands from the collective who shot this and Man Man's 10lb Moustache, Adam Carrigan and Severine Pictures, in particular Prowler's Holy Most, Gildon Works' Arcanum Ghost, but especially their gem for Mahogany's Neo Plastic Boogie Woogie.
posted by progosk at 12:04 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a strong sudden urge to learn belly dancing.

Oh, I understand that urge completely - I was seized by it 4 years ago (when I learned about gothic belly dance) and it's become an obsession for me. Try it sometime - there's nothing else like it, and it can be done by people of all ages and body types. I bet you'll be hooked! The piece linked above is choreographed by Rachel Brice of the Indigo, who is very widely known and respected in the belly dance community. This kind of music and costuming is really popular right now for tribal fusion dancers.

Brice has a brand new DVD out, so you can learn her style in your living room. It's been selling well, for good reason. Highly recommended!
posted by velvet winter at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

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