For such an immediately refreshing band as Man Man, it’s taken me a few weeks to really digest Rabbit Habits. Don’t worry, the band haven’t gotten “challenging” in some way that means they’re experimenting with their sound in a way no one likes. It’s actually not that far off from their work on their Anti- debut Six Demon Bag a few years back.
But something’s different about the carnival-style primeval bar band from parts unknown, and even now I have trouble placing it exactly, but within the instantly likeable 13 tracks that comprise Rabbit Habbits, somehow, the seemingly loose band (who still are very loose), got more intricate, more complicated, yet aren’t letting on.
Take the bridge of “Hurly/Burly,” with its deceptively complicated hand clap pattern. The xylophone line on “Top Drawer.” Or the organ/electronic keyboard work that’s nearly out of the human range of hearing on “Harpoon Fever (Queequeg’s Playhouse).” In a weird way, they’re trying to hide how good they are.
The odd, experimental Man Man have always tried to keep their prowess and strong ethic of rehearsal under their hats, often posing as slightly sophisticated brutes. The hints of culture here and there, like the beautifully rendered “Poor Jackie,” would easily be dismissed by the band as pure luck. Not the case.
Still, with a few exceptions, the middle of the record tends to lag behind its strong openers, with somewhat goofy (or more than usual) cuts like “El Azteca” failing to capture the fantastic vibe of “Top Drawer,” or “The Ballad Of Butter Beans.” As carnival-style primeval bar bands from parts unknown go, though, they’re still way ahead of the pack.