This week, I am having several issues at my day job, but the worst is probably a surprise shift that stretches from 5:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night, and was also graciously given to me on one of my precious few days off. Needless to say, I’m in a state of mind that lends itself to a certain kind of noisy, pissed-off thudding, and today’s song is exactly that.
St. Louis’s Man the Manipulator are nominally a sludgy noise rock band with roots in screamy hardcore. The vocals harken back to days of kittencore past, drawing comparisons to purveyors of high-pitched desperation like ...Of Death and the Spirit of Versailles, but the music surrounding it is different.
It is, for lack of a better word, disgusting. There’s an element of deliberately jarring Drive Like Jehu-isms in the guitar, specifically in the way that it’s used percussively more than tonally, while still allowing texture to naturally evolve from the feedback. It’s human. The rhythm section is where the band establishes its voice, complimenting the distinctive vocal and guitar work by leaning into off-kilter, woozy grooves.
“Sorry Chase, Either Way You’re Dead” is one of the more uptempo tracks on their eponymous debut, but it doesn’t fall out of step with the rest of the record at all. In fact, the tone captured in the opening drum kick—a statement of purpose if ever there was one—is emblematic of the misanthropic, scuzzy nature of the record as a whole.
After that gnarly, gnarly opening split second (which sounds perfectly clear yet distinctively fuzzy, courtesy of the recording by Jeff Fields), a nightmarish and inchoate riff enters, with the aforementioned shrieks buzzing on top of the mix without overwhelming it. Constantly ascending, the riff sounds like it’s about to either collapse in on itself or reach some sort of catharsis, but neither really happens. It simply shifts into the next section of the song, a more bass-driven and off-putting (read: traditionally noisy) section that makes “angular” feel like a meaningless word. Before the listener really has time to breathe, it’s back to the original section, yet somehow, it feels even more barely controlled than before.
Just as you may be settling into some sort of rhythm within the song, it ends, just as quickly as it began. You’re left feeling somewhat incomplete, yet with an uncomfortable, angry, antisocial pit in your stomach, and you decide to press play on the next track. At least, that was my experience.
In short, if you’ve ever wanted Eyehategod and Jeromes Dream to have the lovechild that they were always meant to, you’re fucking up if you sleep on Man the Manipulator. Check their Bandcamp here and tell them Ellie sent you.
Tagged: man the manipulator