After picking up Man’s Gin’s new record Rebellion Hymns at Maryland Deathfest while Erik Wunder took Cobalt on the road for the first time, I couldn’t wait to get home and play it. Their first album Smiling Dogs was an interesting beginning, though less complete than the new album upon first listen, a fact I attribute to the maintenance of a more extensive band line-up this time around. Their latest release through Profound Lore Records seems to have taken their compositions to the next level and blends so much into one tantalizing record; it’s difficult to know where to start if not the beginning.
The album starts off with Scott’s thoughtfully composed piano, slowly nudging forward into the degenerate bends of southern sway. The pressure builds as the rest of the band joins in, layering, guitar, drums and upright bass. Erik’s timeless lyrics and distinguishable vocal style lay dominant in the mix despite the compression on his gruff passionate laments. TomTierney even adds some accordion to the mix. Around the five minute mark, the band lulls in the presence of some lonely bass heavy notes, only to collide and collect together in harmonious hymns on ‘Inspiration’
The intro to ‘Varicose’ sounded far too much like ‘Nuclear Ambition Part 1’ off their first album Smiling Dogs. That being said, this was still one of my favorite tracks on the album, whether it be because I get all excited thinking it’s going to be that other track, or the fact that it transforms into something beautiful in its own right. Gorgeous lines like “Stoic lines in my face, they bleed.” and Erik’s captivating campfire like narrative style still has me wondering who this woman was what killed her. As much as I’ve already noted the quality of the lyrics on this album, ‘Off The Coast Of Sicily’ is a gift to the ears. Entrance percussion sounds like banging on empty factory walls, layered in heavy, quick bow passes, playful Santana like guitar and possibly even a melodica in there. Erik’s vocals sound as if they’ve been passed through a radio speaker; also feature guest vocals by Elise Wunder.
The album is broken up by several interludes, represented by a triad of deer heads on the back listings. On the first interlude, what was that shaker; a box of Macaroni? It sounds as though it could have been in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, with its hollow unturned instrumentals. The second is nothing similar. It’s as though a cd player had been re-amped and was then recorded. Sound quality is terrible but with obvious intention as an interesting lead in to ‘Never Do The Neon Lights’ which feature drums by Brian Alien and Lozano’s essential harmonica solo. The third interlude is my favorite of the three, most likely for its eerie piano like the drag of a sick over a chain link fence, coupled with a calming twinkle of a lullaby. With no shortage of drummers on this record, Jason Madrick contributes percussion to the various interludes, not to mention the album’s first release ‘Deer Head & The Rain;’ Erik sitting back behind the kit on the rest of the album.
‘Hibernation Time’ is without question, one of the best tracks on the album, featuring baritone saxophone by Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Bloodiest, Corrections House); a reason to make it to the end of the album in its own right. It’s the hidden track that makes me secretly love it more than anyone could ever know. Set to the tune of ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles, ‘Let It Dubs’ is Alien’s passionately hilarious ballad to his pal Erik Wunder, which has to have spawned from an acid trip at some point or some really good weed. The last I’d heard of the legend of Dubs and Josh, I was in a van with the guys following a Nirvana cover set at Clutter in Funkadelic Studios. Brian leaned in towards me in the back seat and proceeded to tell me the legend of E Dubs and how great a friend Josh was. The song pretty much describe the typical secondary happenings if you listen close, but it’s a great insight into a portion of the bands dynamic and a reveal of their foolery behind the scenes. I would highly recommend this record and suggest giving their earlier work a shot as well if you haven’t already.