For anyone following the indie-music press and this city's role in it, Man Man has long been a familiar name. But you'd have to scream it from the rooftops to hear it above the roar of these clamorous Philly noisemakers.
Like New Year's Eve on Bourbon Street, the ensemble fills the air with whistles, pump organs, Viking howls, xylophones, squeaking trumpets and belching saxophones, to say nothing of its cluttered, percussive overdrive.
On Tuesday, Man Man not only released its Anti- label debut,
, the band - dressed in its usual whites, with its usual dancing boy in a monkey suit on stage - also sold out the Starlight Ballroom, with face-painted fans looking to be part of the Man Man tribe.
That ritualistic element is crucial to Man Man's éclat. Not just because singer/keyboardist Honus Honus, drummer "Pow Pow" Powell and most of Man Man faced each other while pounding out its tribal cacophony, but the band's Captain Beefheart-like stomps and its Looney Tunes composer Raymond Scott-esque tinkles created a beautiful sound that acted like a call to arms.
Honus' guttural shouts took on love songs libidinal and paranoid, while the carnival bloop of "Mister Jung Stuffed" and the manic jazz of "Zebra" teemed with surf guitars. And Man Man used repetitive marimbas that sounded like rattled skeleton bones from a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Anyone buying the hype that
is Man Man's most contagious "pop" record hasn't been paying attention. For all their mess, older songs like "Banana Ghost" were as infectious as any current pop-hop hit.
Man Man played rock-and- roll at its most primal, gospel shouts mixing with Viking squeals. While much of its set raced by faster than a speeding bullet, there was a rough elegance to the slower "Gold Teeth," whose eerie, electric piano runs were as seductive as Honus' pleas for adoration - strange as they may seem.