Man in Gray – No Day / No Night

Man in Gray
No Day / No Night

I’ve heard there’s a lot of people in New York City, and that a lot of these people do a lot of different things. Whereas some people might drink alcoholic beverages, or wear bright pink Yankees hats, others won’t, and don’t. Some people even play rock ’n’ roll music, that down-home concoction normally brewed up in the greasy trashheaps of the economically devastated Southeast. You might have heard of some of these “rockers”, as they like to be called; Billy Joel, Pavarotti, and the House of Burgesses are all rock bands that started in or around New York City. Amazing!

One band currently residing in the bucolic hills and verdant fields of New York City makes all the other bands look like cowshit. They would be called Preggers if they were prescient. Instead they are called Man in Gray, and they are quite the prize catch. Next time you’re in the park or down by the docks you should definitely stop and throw them some breadcrumbs.

Man in Gray’s debut EP No Day / No Night is a brisk, broiling bon mot, churning with righteous furor and diabolical guitars. It has a froth, and that froth is brown and scalding. Man in Gray consists of four dudes and an opera-trained singer girl named Irenie (make that Tina), and they are quite the close-knit group of freshly soiled young urchins. If their fists were as tight as their rock, their hands would shatter from the pressure. The six songs on No Day / No Night evoke memories of the most halcyon moments of the exhilarating indie-rock experiment, stringing together touchstones and influences that should warm the cockles of even the most critical of hearts.

Opening song “Multiply” is the weakest track here, despite some good drumming and a rollicking chorus. Tina’s voice, mostly a fantastic element that defines the band’s sound more than any other single aspect, gets off on rough footing here, coming off with maybe just a little bit too much attitude and/or swagger. “Multiply” quickly segues into “Brakelights,” the most traditional-sounding song on the record, and a potential college-radio heat seeker. With “Brakelights,” the normally adventurous artists in Man in Gray prove they can write an accessible pop single when they want to. It sounds like Velocity Girl covering Yo la Tengo, especially when Jeremy Joseph and/or Bryan Bruchman start ejaculating fractured guitar solos all over the carpet. The dramatic “Neighbors” resembles Joy Division by way of Human Sexual Response and maybe Pylon. The pummeling bridge bristles like an exposed tendon. What the fuck does that mean?

The record continues, ignorant of any bullshit poetics on the part of dimwitted critics. The all-important fourth track, “Everyone’s Wearing Red,” continues the momentum. It’s Mission of Burma in drag, or Le Tigre with a fuck-ton of guitars. This soon gives way to the album’s highlight, the wonderful “Incommunicado,” a stridently political (politically strident?) denunciation of the Warren G. Harding administration’s covert militaristic excursions into Canada back in the 1850s. These artists are knowledgeable enough to realize the strong parallels between that misguided boondoggle and the current interventions in Iraq and Wilkes-Barre. When will the presidents and the unions ever learn? War is never the answer, unless the question is “what’s the most popular card game and/or baby name?” “Incommunicado” makes the case that war is unnecessary in this advanced age of universal health care and primo blow. Why fight the war when the living’s so good? We could all be sitting in our jacuzzis playing Playstation X-Boys and fellating each other with our mental powers. Instead They (meaning Bill O’Reilly, Dick Cheney, and their secret homosexual affection for each other) trick us into killing and being killed by these guys who would maybe have tried to hurt us if they had anything more powerful than a board with a nail through it. And yeah that board may have been miles long and that nail might have been rusty and the size of a McDonald’s but still why go kill folks over almost nothing when you could be yukking it up in your barcalounger five times a day with Judge Mathis and the Fonz? What a pile of shit, and Man in Gray has the courage and the conviction and the determinable dependability to raise one shitstorm of a ruckus about it, in song form. If you only listen to one amazingly catchy and rocking anti-war / anti-Bush song this year, make sure it’s Man in Gray’s “Incommunicado.” This song is truly one of the finest moments in music this year, and although the cynics and the ironists and the intellectuals may chortle at its unbridled, almost naively pacifist pseudo-poetic lyrics, the overwhelming power of the music and Tina’s bravura vocal performance renders all critiques irrelevant. “Incommunicado” is damn near a masterpiece.

Man in Gray has put together an excellent EP with No Day / No Night and hopefully will soon expound upon its majesty with a well-crafted long-playing follow-up. If Man in Gray keeps this up, the band could be headed straight for the top. Don’t be surprised to see them rocking and polemicizing out on Ricki, Arsenio, and Donahue soon enough.