Man’s Body is a band based in both Los Angeles and Chicago. The “soft punk” band recently released its second full-length album A Set Of Steak Knives on NocturnalSol (a division of Heyday Media Group) which was recorded at KooPin in Queens, NY, Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago, IL and Grandma’s Warehouse in Los Angeles, CA representing perhaps the sensibilities, influences and roots of the music. The music is an eclectic form of what might be called power pop but with the kind of post-punk that has vivid moods and strong atmospheric elements and the loud-quiet dynamics that are often attributed to Pixies but which can be traced to Mission of Burma. Whatever influences the group has absorbed Man’s Body has its own sound born of its members’ various backgrounds. Greg Franco came up in the Hollywood punk and underground rock world of that city having formed The Blasphemous Yellow with his brother at age 16 and played shows with bands like Psi Com (which included a pre-Jane’s Addiction Perry Farrell) and Tex & The Horseheads (which included Jeffrey Lee Pierce of Gun Club fame in its early incarnations). J. Niimi has been in and around the Chicago music scene since the late 80s as a multi-instrumentalist, a songwriter, a luthier and as a music journalist. The two met when Niimi’s band Ashtray Boy played one night in Los Angeles and the two hit it off as friends and a year later Franco’s band Rough Church played at Schubas in Chicago where Niimi was invited to fill in on drums. From there the emergent band Man’s Body would go on to record the Found EP at Steve Albini’s studio Electrical Audio and two full length albums. A Set Of Steak Knives and its lush production and evocative and imaginative songwriting is proof that though Niimi and Franco live in different parts of the country that their creative chemistry is yielding a compelling body of work.
Listen to our interview with Niimi on Bandcamp linked below and to listen to A Set Of Steak Knives visit the NocturnalSol Bandcamp page also linked below where you can also order a limited vinyl edition of the record.
When Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker said at some point during that band’s set said something about how this is probably the punk tour of the year it seemed obvious. Even if one were inclined to contrarian impulses the fact that it was Jawbox headlining a bill that included Samiam, Face to Face and Descendents makes that more challenging to refute.
Samiam started very early in the evening around 6:30 p.m. and its melodic punk sound had some unexpected grit to it live. There was an underlying catharsis of personal pain and loss the seemed to inform the songs and upon closer listen songs like “Dull” and “Capsized” in the set list hit hard and heavy yet in doing so made the need to make music to uplift without trivializing those feelings so urgent in a way that translated directly to the live performance.
Face to Face’s own anthemic punk while not as gritty as that of Samiam before them sure delved into topics deeper than one might expect from a band that is so closely associated with pop punk. But its songs exploring personal integrity and the core meaningfulness of life informed by a self-effacing humor and poetic insight were undeniably effective. “Walk the Walk” and “It’s Not Over” really made that obvious and how Face To Face injects some inventive guitar work into a style of music that can be a bit predictable three decades in. Trever Keith also gets points for throwing some friendly shade in saying how he enjoyed his Dodgers handling “your Rockies.” Fortunately people laughed and didn’t take the comment too seriously.
Descendents walked on stage and without a lot of preamble launched the set with “Everything Sux” like the legends of the whole pop punk world they are. Although there was a spirited joyfulness to the Descendents’ performance and they performed silly songs like “Wienerschnitzel” what became very apparent from the live show is how this music makes life’s everyday problems and struggles seem manageable by humanizing them, by pointing out the humor value and poignancy of it all even when it feels its most painful. Setting those moments of peak emotional turmoil to energetic and tuneful punk songs fortifies the mind. While it may not be saying it’s all going to be okay or something unrealistic like that it at least suggests these experiences don’t have to sink you and that has been an important thing to hear for years and even now which is part of why Descendents and the bands it influenced remain resonant and relevant. And it wasn’t all songs about being a young, angsty person, and material like “Global Probing,” “Clean Sheets” and “When I Get Old” transcend the adolescent mindset while staying rooted in a spirit of youthful exuberance and a willingness to feel all those feelings and not hide from them in the name of growing up. Like burying your emotions just because you reached a certain age or have a “real” job and a mortgage and marriage really worked for anyone anyway.
After Jawbreaker split in 1996 its cult following seemed to increasingly expand for over twenty years. Its anthemic pop punk songs infused with literary yet accessible lyrics found a wide audience among fans of pop punk but follow the creative threads even from its debut album Unfun and there’s more thoughtfulness, inventive guitar work and unconventional rhythms than one might expect given its general legacy as one of the star bands of 90s pop punk. And live the sharper edges of the music and its more experimental instincts were starkly obvious. The infectious melodies and emotionally vulnerable vocals that have made it a massive influence on emo were there to be sure. One was struck by how much The Clash probably influenced the songwriting not to mention an obvious inspiration like Descendents. But in its most stretching out past the boundaries of standard punk moments, when the band engaged in noisy soundscapes mid-song or near the end it felt like getting to see a Steve Albini band though more Shellac than Big Black. It had that combination of focused intensity and wildness that you don’t hear in much punk that got too popular. And that’s when Jawbreaker was at its most exciting from a musical standpoint.
For just three guys on stage Jawbreaker unleashed a lot of energy all while maintaining a stance of self-deprecating irreverence that you’d hope to hear. If you include the encore the set consisted of almost all of Dear You with some choice tracks from 24 Hour Revenge Therapy thrown in (“Boxcar,” “Condition Oakland” and “Jinx Removing”) and before performing “Basilica” to close out the show, Schwarzenbach told us something like how they would leave us with one last psychedelic mindfuck to take with us before retreating to the comfort of our everyday abodes. Given the extravagant sonic freakout that blazed out the show, at least the band delivered as it did the entire performance.
What:Built to Spill – Keep It Like a Secret tour w/Orua and Dirt Russell When: Friday, 07.26, 6 p.m. Where: Mishawaka Amphitheater, Bellevue, CO Why: Built To Spill bridged the gap between free improvisational rock, psychedelia and post-punk at a time in the 90s when so much of that was, barring Neil Young, was considered quaint unless you were a fan of wack, mid-90s alternative rock. Built to Spill was very different from some of that more mundane music because when it had album titles like Ultimate Alternative Wavers and songs called “Randy Described Eternity” and “I Would Hurt a Fly” the language of an underground, alternative culture with irreverent humor and an unabashed embrace of the weird and unconventional and out of step with mainstream normality was mincing no words but also not trying to alienate any potential comers. This year the group is touring for the twentieth anniversary of its monumental fourth album Keep It Like a Secret.
What:The Psychedelic Furs w/James and Dear Boy When: Friday, 07.26, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: The Psychedelic Furs are apparently on the verge of giving us their first new album in nearly thirty years sometime in the next year or two. While the group did take a hiatus in the 90s its iconic 80s albums aged well because while the band had hits it never really made concessions to trends and Richard Butler’s scrappy yet soulful voice and thought-provoking lyrics and the band’s brooding melodies and expansively energetic live show reconciled the thoughts and emotions everyone has into memorable songs. Since the Furs reconvened in 2000 it may have been skating on its back catalog but its shows felt like they were channeling from a time when they first wrote the music and they didn’t waste our time by trotting out material unworthy of its earlier music. The career of Mancunian rock band James was almost in direct parallel with The Psychedelic Furs with its own history of high emotive and idiosyncratic rock songwriting that evolved considerably across time and recent performances displaying the verve and power of its early days as well.
What: Anne Waldman (w/Adam Baumeister and Roger Green), Wymond Miles, Jeff Suthers and Max & Toni When: Friday, 07.26, 8-10:30 p.m. Where: Pon Pon Why: Anne Waldman is one of the surviving leading lights of the Beat Generation who is also currently involved with running the Naropa Institute (also Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics) of which she was a founder in 1974. Her poetry has a force and consciousness resonant with the rhythms of music and on this evening she will be joined by Meep Records head Adam Baumeister and experimental guitar composer Roger Green formerly of Idle Mind and The Czars. Also on the bill are Wymond Miles of The Fresh & Onlys in San Francisco and prior to that various Denver bands including Pinkku, and Jeff Suthers, the iconic guitarist of Pale Sun, Bright Channel, Volplane, Moonspeed, Pteranodon and other projects.
What:MDC/Verbal Abuse and Round Eye When: Friday, 07.26, 9 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: When you call your band Millions of Dead Cops in 1979 you’re already courting trouble. But MDC has also been taking it on the nose and writing hardcore classics with a righteously political edge from the beginning having penned songs about animal rights, LBGTQ issues, racial issues and invective against capitalism with humor and conviction. Lead singer Dave Dictor is proudly a weirdo who is confrontational with his anti-establishment stance in a creative and engaging and often humorous fashion.
What:Amon Tobin presents Two Fingers DJ Set w/Tsuruda, Keota, Seied and GTillDawn When: Friday, 07.26, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Amon Tobin is a versatile composer whose electronic music runs the gamut of dance, jazz and the avant-garde. Tonight he is performing a DJ set so it’s hard to say exactly what he’ll throw into the mix but given his proclivity for imaginative production it won’t be entirely predictable yet a display of great taste.
Saturday | July 27
What:Black Pistol Fire w/Thunderpussy When: Saturday, 07.27, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Black Pistol Fire is a likable enough bluesy garage rock band. But the reason to go is to see opening act Thunderpussy who may in some ways share Black Pistol Fire’s affection for driving, blues-based punk riffs but its deft songwriting is a bit like if The Dead Weather took more than a few cues from T. Rex and the mirrored sides of Zeppelin’s hard rocking and contemplative, introspective songwriting. The Seattle-based group’s 2018 self-titled debut is more than a cut above the relatively recent spate of bands that are tapping into inspiration from hard rock’s 70s heyday by not merely trying to rock but not being willing to push the songwriting beyond the clichés. Thunderpussy is willing to get weird and take you into outer space with its music the way Heart, Cheap Trick and David Bowie were more than able to as well.
What:Anklepants and Electrocado When: Saturday, 07.27, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Anklepants is what happens when a guy working in the special effects industry makes an outfit in which a phallus attached as the nose of an alien is a controller for the music which is very sophisticated and experimental dance music in the vein of more adventurous house or techno with elements borrowed from the full spectrum of modern dance styles. If you want to see something you’ll never forget this is the show to go and see because while the visual side of the project is entertaining and unusual enough the music stands on its own with no need for gimmicks—the costume is just a bonus over seeing some guy holding headphones on and waving one hand above his head to hype the crowd.
What:The Appleseed Cast w/Young Jesus and Weathered Statues When: Saturday, 07.27, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: The Appleseed Cast might be the most well-known band out of the under celebrated Lawrence, Kansas music scene. Its own contribution to the development of 90s emo and beyond has been its exquisite, borderline dream pop that bridged the gap between midwestern emo and post-rock. Its luminous melodies and richly expressive and nuanced vocals have given the band a cross genre appeal. In 2019 The Appleseed Cast released its most recent album The Fleeting Light of Impermanence.
Monday | July 29
What:Frank Iero and the Future Violents w/Geoff Rickly When: Monday, 07.29, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Frank Iero is probably known to most as the guitarist in My Chemical Romance. But seven years hence from that group’s dissolution Iero and his band the Future Violents released their album Barriers produced by Steve Albini. Iero sounds like he dug deep to reinvent himself a little for this new music as it feels raw and heartfelt and even confessional in a way that wasn’t as obvious as his work with MCR. When the songs aren’t brimming with effusive energy there is an introspective mood with music that demonstrate Iero’s keen ear for crafting rock songs with emotional and sonic nuance.
Tuesday | July 30
What:Bad Cop / Bad Cop w/Dog Party and Pity Party When: Tuesday, 07.30, 7:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Los Angeles-based punk band Band Cop/Bad Cop have a clever name but one that also reflects its politically and socially subversive lyrics. Its massive hooks and pop punk sound is a perfect vehicle for laying out ideas and concepts in a personal and accessible way without coming off preachy. With any luck the band will have a new album soon but its most recent record is 2017’s Warriors put on Fat Wreck Chords.
Wednesday | July 31
What:Suzanne Vega w/Siobhan Wilson When: Wednesday, 07.31, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Suzanne Vega is perhaps best known by most people for her 80s singles “Luka” (an unabashed song about child abuse that made the Top 40) and “Left of Center” but her eclectic and varied career has included collaborating with Philip Glass for his weirdo jazz record Songs from Liquid Days and her own impressively broad range as a songwriter with a knack for writing thoughtful, literate songs that have long found a place in college radio and “modern rock” playlists and occupies a similar place in popular music as people like Robyn Hitchcock and Jane Siberry.