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We / I (‘ve) been seeing Playboy Manbaby live for about four years now. We’ve seen them at venues that have high ceilings as well as venues with low ceilings. Electric Babyman is another Playboy Manbaby album, and you could refer to it (if you go by the jacket) as “The Playboy Manbaby Experience.” As we’ve had The Playboy Manbaby Experience, we believe that we’re completely in the right to bring you this review.
Playboy Manbaby are a group of nice young folks from the Phoenix, Arizona area that have been bringing their own blend of Punk / Ska / Jazz / Fusion to the local music scene for a pretty long time now. They’re the type of people who would probably be okay with playing your house if you have enough room for them and they’d probably even be nice enough to stick around and help you clean up afterwards.
We went to a show for the album release party of their newest collection of jams, Don’t Let It Be before we’d even actually managed to hear the new album. Nothing reminds you of how out of whatever a “scene” is more than going to an album release that’s probably a lot of extended friends and not being able to follow the crowd when they’re shouting lyrics out as if they’ve marinated a long enough time to have individual meaning. Oops! Maybe that made us feel like The Bad Fans but the show was still absolutely fantastic. There were still enough good bands that we didn’t already know to enjoy before Playboy Manbaby got on stage and enough cigarettes to smoke outside to keep us entertained
Here’s our 100% opinion from listening to the album over several days after the show (it was in February!): Playboy Manbaby is growing up. Describing a group of adult men like that…probably isn’t cool though. Maybe maturing? Wilting daisies that they are Playboy Manbaby is maybe figuring out their place in the world. You can tell, because – (you read the rest of the review after this).
The Album is a good time right off the bat. There’s a collection of songs forming the spear-tip of the album that penetrate you deeper and deeper as you listen to them. The album opens with You Can Be A Fascist Too a high-tempo take down of neighborhood fascists and probably the ones on the net, too. This is actually not our favorite song on the album even though it’s the one everyone was yelling the lyrics to at the show we saw them at.
Since we like getting penetrated, our first favorite song on the album is Bored Broke & Sober. We can tell you that and describe it: a high-tempo collection of yelling and guitar with a back end of twitchy high-pitched electric that sounds like it’s being played in a cave and the bass sliding to the front. Bored Broke & Sober sounds often at times like standing between two people who don’t want to figure out where life is going and are trying to make a contest out of it.
Maybe we wont write about the next song. Well, Cadillac Car is a fantastic song. It’s got all of the references to meth that I love in a song, and it appeals to me because I like wearing nice white dresses. These are all things the lyrics bring up, but it is starkly a song about wanting to tell the person you work for that they should [a bad word] off. This is the other song at their live show that also got everyone up and screaming the chorus so I guess a big part of the album is maybe the way that people in our age group are frustrated with work.
OK. Cadillac Car is a great song. We like Cheap Wine. It’s like an elegy for not wanting to get out of bed, living in filth and trying to make it seem like it’s not your fault. Sometimes that’s just a way you’ve gotta live life and everybody does it. There are a million books about shitty dudes living in cabana houses in New York or lofts or whatever. Where are all of the books about filthy people doing shitty things and not having the book actually be about a dude’s fucked up relationship with his dad. That’s what we want from literature and we can’t have it, so we found it in music.
Popular follows Cheap Wine and Cadillac Car like an endpoint. It’s where you get the sharpest part of that spear we mentioned making the wound all wide and drippy. Popular is maybe a written confession from the lead singer about what it’s like to be in the middle of a popularity contest or a scene. Maybe it’s something that comes from the perspective someone enjoys when they stand on a stage above a crowd between songs. It brings to mind not a literal popularity contest – but the exhaustion between sets. The crowd breaking off into cliques that you can’t quite understand and the people desperate in the corner sending pictures of the show to their friends. Maybe…maybe it’s a good picture and a bad one.
If that song is the last one that’s on the blade of the spear, to follow this spear metaphor further down the shaft I’m So Affluent is where the blade drops off completely. Definitely a change from the previous songs, it has a noticeably jazzier feel with some light piano and the man on horns doing a much more mellow background. The lyrics are noticeably darker as they worm their way into your blood and through your body.
The rest of the songs on the album don’t follow the same turn down tempo as I’m So Affluent does. There’s one more rise in energy and anger before the album comes to a close with Straight White Jesus. In the two pills you have to swallow before you get the downer-high you’ve been looking two you’ll face down a song that could be about the rat race of success and then Don Knotts in a Wind Tunnel.
I’ll remember my friend turning towards me and saying “Don Knotts in a [bad word] Wind Tunnel!” like he was that cartoon wolf that Tex Avery used to do seeing the attractive country woman for the first time. Definitely the harshest and maybe also maddest song on the album, Don Knotts in a Wind Tunnel has lyrics that could be personal, or could be about an abstract concept that’s easy to hate. Some things we hate in life aren’t personal to us but can come from seeing other people struggle. Life is messed up that way.
The kind of album they made is one meant for listening pretty much any time you want. That’s me saying I thought a lot about what this album would sound like taken all at once. What I literally did though was give myself enough time to listen to it since I bought it that I had time to fill the space with other albums and come back and think about it, harder. That’s right…I didn’t even listen to it all the way through at first. I’m rude like that.
We gotta talk about Straight White Jesus. The album might open with a song about neighborhood fascists, but the finale is a condemnation of religious fervor and small minded western egoism that comes from not just rural towns, but everywhere people have been worshiping for a long time. There’s a lot of places hate comes from. It can come with the frustration from feeling apart from your own generation as you get older. Hate can also come from what we’re taught or the way we’re taught to implicitly other people that don’t look like us by the same things that are supposed to teach us to be respectful and inclusive.
Hate can sometimes come from having to have other people judge what you’ve made unfairly, which is why we wont stick a score at the end of this. I hope you like it! I hope you try and find out if you should like the album by reading this and make your own opinion.
I hope you don’t bring it up to your friends though. Read the fucking disclaimer!