Mainstays in the Chicago music scene, Mannequin Men are the Midwests answer to Atlanta-based ruffians and sometime tour mates the Black Lips: fuzz-addled, hook-heavy, jangly retro rock with antics to spare. Their self-titled fourth LP covers a lot of territory in its 37 minutes. Theres 60s garage rock, mod, Twin Cities power pop, spit wad punk, and yes, even some rambling country influence. A mishmash of genre-dipping aside, Mannequin Men have had eight years of Midwest dive bar gigs and dues-paying tours to sharpen their snark, and its widely apparent on their latest effort.
The dingy opening rhythm guitar beckons the listener into Dont Grow, with Kevin Kujawas lead vocals scratching against the raw drive of the bands gritty sound. Recorded just east of Chicago in Benton Harbor, MI, the album capitalizes on unpolished studio performance, layered amp feedback aptly squelching any thought of Auto-Tune or sterile studio finish.
The sweet, strumming pop approach to lead single Hobby Girl packs an apathetic rejection: You should get a hobby girl, or find somebody else to talk to. Grungy rocker Enough is the album’s most psychedelic offering, grounded in chiming guitars and chugging drums. Wake Up Dead snarls and sneers at the groups rowdiest, channeling their infamous live shenanigans in the brief 2:12 track. The two songs that follow,Why Do I Get? and Medill, subsist on bits of twangy vocals and chords, Big Star-esque lyrics, and harmonies shining through handsomely.
Mannequin Men is a quality effort from the Chicago rockers, hardly dull or stagnant and nearly impossible not to revisit.
Essential Tracks: Hobby Girl, Gonna Forget About Me, and Enough