Monday, December 20, 2010

Record review: Manwomanchild - self-titled LP

Posted by Frank

We first wrote about Chicago's Manwomanchild last month via an interview with the band's vocalist, guitarist and overall mastermind, David Child. At that time only a handful of tracks were available, all of them excellent, so I had high expectations for the newly-released, self-titled debut Manwomanchild full-length. It didn't let me down. The record has quickly become one of my late favorites of the year. Recorded in Rhode Island - where the project originated before David moved to the Windy City - these 12 strong tracks feature a sound that's a hybrid of classic guitar-driven glam rock and slick, synth-tinged new wave, topped off by abstract and thought-provoking lyrics.

"Marshall Street" starts things off with a poppy groove and one of the most immediate choruses on the album. Lyrically, the track sets the tone for the record as a whole, which throughout its 50 minutes revolves around the themes of location (often seeming surreal) and personal identity. Many of the songs play out almost like mini movies packed with intrigue and mystery. We're never completely sure who the characters are or what exactly the significance is behind the places where the stories are set. They stir the imagination and that's part of what makes the album so interesting. We're introduced to a "Neon Child" on the meaty, guitar-heavy track of the same name, which most directly showcases Manwomanchild's love for Bowie and '70s glam rock in general. On the driving "Exodus," the story is about a cryptic individual who seems to lack any one specific identity, time, or place. The protagonist of the jaunty "The Life & Times of Alexander Quick" is just as undefined and peculiar: "No one seems to notice that we never get older, fade to the background gracefully/Reappear every couple years to show up at your cocktail receptions," David sings here. Only the melodic, hopeful "Lover's Anthem" could be considered at all straightforward with its heartfelt statement of devotion, but even this track waxes poetic and keeps with the feel of the rest of the material. Everything wraps up with a lengthy "Letter from Madrid" that brings the album's underlying themes full circle, alternating between fast and slow and finally building to an epic close. We're left with the question, "What good's a dream that nobody gets to share?" Not much at all, I'd say, so it's lucky that Manwomanchild decided to let us in on the fantastic things they've been dreaming up.

You can listen to the album in its entirety here and purchase it on iTunes and Amazon MP3. "Neon Child" is available for free download. For even more Manwomanchild, check out standalone single "Louis XIV" and compilation track "Chile La Roja."


More record reviews:
Carbon Tigers - 'The Burrows'
Gold Motel - 'Talking Fiction'
Dastardly - 'May You Never...'
Michael Lux and the Bad Sons - 'Neat Repeater'
Northpilot - 'The Bright Brigade'
Derek Nelson & The Musicians - 'Riders of the Tide'

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