Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Girl in Trouble
(Is a Temporary Thing)

Man in Gray, I Can't
Sleep Unless I Hear
You Breathing, Serious

Business [6/19/07]

"There's a time when every girl learns to use her head."
-- Deborah Iyall (Romeo Void)

With a name like Man in Gray, I pictured a male lead singer,
but front person duties are actually handled by the decidedly
un-masculine Tina DaCosta. The male members of this Brooklyn quintet provide the occasional backing vocal, but the microphone mostly belongs to DaCosta. I'm reminded of other mixed-gender groups with forceful female vocalists, like the Gossip, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Romeo Void (“A Girl in Trouble”), but Man
in Gray aren't dance-oriented. Their brand of post-punk indie rock is dark, yet driving stuff. DaCosta often yells, but the music
is just as loud, so she never sounds like she's barking out orders.

The Village Voice compares the five-piece to Sonic Youth,
Elliot Smith, the Pixies, and Pavement, while their biography
adds Mission of Burma, Sleater-Kinney, and Minus the Bear.
I can hear most of those acts—a little Blonde Redhead, too—
but none of Smith’s plaintiveness or Pavement's playfulness.
As with many Sonic Youth recordings, there are quiet moments even amidst some of the noisiest numbers. DaCosta's voice also varies from loud and low to gentle and pretty—almost Kim Deal-ish (hence, I suppose, the Pixies reference). Every once in awhile she lets out a series of controlled screams, like on closing track "Your Baby Is Dead."

Despite song titles like "Bad Mood" and the aforementioned
"Baby," there's nothing scary about MiG. Nonetheless, the band could probably compose a swell horror soundtrack, if they were so inclined, since most such movies have their quiet and gentle moments, too (although in Brian DePalma’s Carrie,
to name but one example, most of them turn out to be illusory).

Five years in the making, I Can't Sleep Unless I Hear You Breathing is the first full-length from Man in Gray. It's neither startlingly original nor astoundingly derivative. The 11 tracks don’t sound exactly the same nor do they sound completely different. This is just a good, solid record. Here's hoping the follow-up doesn't take another five years to materialize.

Endnote: For more information (including MP3s), please
see the official Man in Gray website or their MySpace Page.
Images from the latter (Jenny Piston and MPS credited).


Anonymous said...

Huh. You know, after hearing Man in Gray repeatedly compared to the Pixies for a few years now and continuously shaking my head in confusion, your explanation actually makes some sense.

kathy fennessy said...

Thanks for your comment, Phil. Only one song reminded me of the Pixies, and it wasn't the band, but rather Tina's voice on that number—and only for a few seconds!