The Kingsbury Manx – Aztec Discipline

The Kingsbury Manx
Aztec Discipline

North Carolina’s Kingsbury Manx has been flying under the radar for three and a half albums of fine, understated pop now, and the band neither advances nor retreats on the band’s latest long player. Still offering a laid-back mix of folksy pickin’ and strummin’ with a mild psychedelic wooziness, it’s not hard to see why the band has yet to set the charts on fire. But I too was underwhelmed when first I heard these modest sons of Dixie, yet I’ve become a fan of the entire Manx catalogue, if not a paying customer.
What works for these guys ultimately is what works for any pop band looking to survive obscurity: the strength of their songs. And, as on previous releases, there are enough strong tunes to outweigh the minority that pass by unremarkably. I was surprised to find myself reminded of a less knotty, more narcotized Richard Davies, but maybe that’s because, though the songs are dressed up in instrumentation that screams (so to speak) Americana and folk-rock, the chordal twists and surprises are there, just quietly.
Actually the twists start right off the bat with the riffy “Pelz Comet.” The men from Manx saw away on their acoustic guitars while relaxed tenors coo and harmonize a nifty melody before the song breaks into a second, faster-paced section. It’s an auspicious start, and like the best of this band, neither does it go out of its way to ingratiate itself, nor is it detached, sullen, or worst of all, boring. There may be a churl or two who dispute the “boring’ thing during the five-plus minutes of “Dinner Bell,” but the band has a lilting chorus nestled amid each lethargic verse, and it’s those touches that keep the listener involved. If I can make a “muso’ complaint though, I’d like to petition the band for fewer logy waltzes and more sprightly numbers like “Growler in the Rumble Seat” or “Grape to Grain,” which pack all of the Manx’s pastoral charms into just around three minutes.
The sound of the record is expansive yet intimate, not lush nor sparse (splarsh?), and there are nice touches throughout, whether it be echoey slide guitars or tastefully played keyboards. It’s a dreamy effect overall: the melodies, the soft voices, the vague lyrics. The boys are also kind enough to append a brief space-rock coda to “Your Castle” just in case you absolutely need a blurping Moog.
Aztec Discipline won’t start the party if it hasn’t already started. Nor will it provide the catharsis your misplaced man-child rage might demand, but it might just grow on you. You’ll be a better person for it, and trust me, you need all the help you can get.