Man in Gray – No Day / No Night EP

Man in Gray
No Day / No Night EP

The promotion for Man in Gray’s debut EP No Day/No Night is pretty much exactly what I’ve come to expect of labels idly hyping passable indie-rock acts: the band’s genesis came from a desire for a musical outlet other than “playing along to their Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth albums;” its sound is marketed as a meeting point between Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth; and of course, the female vocalist is situated in a locus somewhere between that of Sleater-Kinney and, at the other end of the spectrum, Nico. Later on, references are made specifically to indie cornerstones the Pixies and The Clash. It’s no mistake that Man in Gray is placed directly in the “for fans of…” bin rather than being advocated for its universality; there’s little in the band’s approach that would exert even a slight gravitational pull on anyone whose shelf for trendy post-punk bands with a quasi-charismatic female vocalist is one CD short of capacity.

So how are the songs? “Multiply” is a decent song relying on jittering dynamics punctuated by a peculiarly disorienting drumbeat. “Brakelights” is a poor attempt at writing a classic indie-rock urban hipster anthem; the song fares well on first listen, but lacks any of the miraculously simple hooks of, say, The Strokes. “Neighbors” does a decent job of building tension until the band reaches a palpable climax led by Tina DaCosta’s furious lines: “I watch my neighbors go to sleep!” “Neighbors” is almost uncomfortably intense, and represents the sort of disorientingly cacophonic territory in which Man in Gray fares best.

“Everyone’s Wearing Red” continues the frenzied pace, but falls a little flat even at just two minutes’ runtime. In “Incommunicado,” the band’s big-deal track, a descending bass line drips over frenetic drums as DaCosta plays the rock vixen; sharp yelps punctuate smoother crooning, leading into a feverish chorus capped by a desperate shout-a-long of the song’s title. DaCosta does her best to carry the track, but her effort is saturated with her overextension; she simply tries too hard to deliver a mind-blowing performance. Her frantic breathing could be interpreted alternately as her dedication to songcraft and inexhaustible energy or simply as her inability to keep up with the track’s pace. The nigh-seven-minute closing track “Mig” contains a few moments of transcendent energy, but manages to trample the momentum with a drawn-out guitar solo that slowly suffocates the song. In the end, just as “Mig” is about to die of its own indulgent melodic obesity, DaCosta revitalizes it with yet another frantic Cap’n Jazz-lite moment.

Although Man in Gray show obvious musical talent and potential, the band’s problem lies in its inability to do anything more than blend its influences into a mixture that lacks the unique, personal touch and charisma that separate imitators from innovators. Until DaCosta and her mates develop a more individual personality and tap their obvious potential, the band’s name is eerily appropriate; there is nothing to distinguish Man in Gray from the other Men in Gray treading indie rock’s crowded streets. In the end, contrary to what the press release claims, much of Man in Gray’s material really isn’t that far removed from simply replaying songs written by members of indie’s Valhalla. Oops, back to the drawing board.