Man Man - On Oni Pond

Man Man - On Oni Pond

Man Man's new album is dark and mysterious, and yet is also exuberantly hopeful at the same time. On Oni Pond, the Philadelphia experimental band's fifth album, explores a haunted and fun sound, similar to the way that the castle levels on Mario Bros. are also fun, and yet haunted. However, the band steers clear of theremins and bad sci-fi sound effects. Rather than drowning in gooey mozzarella cliches, On Oni Pond has a unique sound palette with an exciting sense of urgency.

In the opening scene of Terry Zwigoff's 2001 film Ghost World, Thora Birch is dancing in her room, shaking her wet hair and waving her hands to 60s Indian rock and roll. That same mysterious feeling is found in the opening track, 'Pink Wonton'. One-liners fly past, jammed into a track bursting with ideas. "Water-board me with 'Call Me Maybe' looping on an endless repeat," sings lead vocalist Honus Honus, colouring the song with humorous, over-dramatic references.

The second track 'End Boss' then slows for a creepier change of pace. Occult references slide around, mentioning all things taboo (Glenn Danzig and 666), as well as some things not so taboo (lemon vodka mixed with churros). It incorporates the kind of wooden percussion Tom Waits used a lot in Big Time. Wacky, dark elements of songs like this one, 'Head On', and 'Fangs' are however charmingly balanced by optimistic choruses, resulting in life-affirming songs for the undead. "Hold on to your heart," Honus sings.

On Oni Pond is not without faults, though. 'Deep Cover' has a refreshing ukulele that sounds a little too like a Beirut song. 'King Shiv' sounds like the Arctic Monkeys, and along with 'Paul's Grotesque', which features hilarious songwriting in a similar vein to the Flight of the Conchords' 'I Told You I Was Freaky', runs too long. 'Sparks' is catchy and features pop songwriting, but like the former two songs, lacks a chorus strong enough to stand out.

Thankfully, Man Man have dungeons full of ideas. 'Pyramids' has a perfect dance beat. Guest female backing vocals add a brilliant element to songs like 'Loot My Body', creating a creepy dynamic reminiscent of Outkast and Kelis's 'Dracula's Wedding'. Album closer and highlight 'Born Tight' transitions from a pop groove into a oriental piano riff just before the 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' refrain kicks in, and a gloriously rambunctious saxophone solo sets over the horizon of On Oni Pond.

Despite songs that sway on the verge of toppling from too many ideas, On Oni Pond is an often heartwarming album, buried in a graveyard of boogying skeletons.

Listen to 'Head On' via Youtube below:

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