Friday, February 8, 2013

The Manic Low - Songs For An Up Day (Moonlight Graham Records, 2012)

Currently, the only T.S.O.L. (Does anyone other than Poindexter punks refer to the band as True Sounds Of Liberty?) disc in my pile marked "Stars 'N Stripes Punk" is the horror-informed Dance With Me. It was marked down to $1.99 in Musicland's (Pembroke Mall location) cheapo bin during a 1995 search, thus it joined a similarly priced Bad Brains live CD in the store's plastic bag. Jack Grisham's rich intonations and the group's tough 'n taut instrumentation certainly made for a Damned-good listening experience, but two subsequent efforts carved their initials more deeply into my cranium. Beneath The Shadows flipped like Grisham and friends turning the pages of UK stalwarts Magazine, via its distinctive vocal pitches and skillful flourishes in electronic noise. Joe Wood, Grisham's brother-in-law, took over frontman duties on the Change Today? follow-up and proved to be a prized pupil in the Morrison/Astbury/Danzig after-school choir. Elsewhere, the oft-jangly guitar propulsion suggested a trade involving Grisham, Peter Buck and a drummer to be named later. I largely missed out on the post-T.S.O.L. pill The Joykiller in the 1990s, but I'm pleased to ingest Grisham's latest tablet fresh from the bottle.

Joined by Paul Roessler (piano/organ/backing vocals/digital instrumentation), Sean Graves (guitars/bass/backing vocals) and Rob Milucky (electric guitar), Captain Jack steers the newly christened The Manic Low amidst pop-crested waves of varying heights. "Daylight Comes," the most valuable treasure in Songs For An Up Day's chest, beams with the heated intensity of a gold-plated Pete Shelley solo gem buried in submerged sand. Waking up is vital to greet each day with a salute, but permanent, sound sleep isn't a bad way to honorably discharge. If Duran Duran possessed more punk cred, maybe "Some Girls Own Me" would be a shining star on one of their short films. Surely, Simon Le Bon and company would agree that the hired models are "better left undressed." Liberation takes the wheel on "I'm Free," as Grisham turns his throat expressing the most powerful of feelings ("When you got the love, it's never gonna bring you down"). This heart beats like an outtake from the Beneath The Shadows days, but the blood flows with the velocity of a Buzzcocks composition from the "comeback" era. There's a new Bowie record out, huh? In spite of the title, "Choked Out In A Candy Store" could've been one of its finer moments of understatement. Elegant piano touches provide a sharp contrast to the mouthful-of-Brach's-butterscotch imagery.

 Jack, I'll never refer to The Manic Low as T.M.L. You have my word on it.

-Gunther 8544

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