Real records have two sides.
by Josh Smith & Jack Mueller
Jack Mueller: Welcome back to Stendhal Syndrome, our excuse to get drunk and talk about music! This is the first phoned-in edition. I mean we’re actually doing this over the phone, not just half-assing it like usual.
Josh Smith: Yep, it’s been a while and I’ve managed to move far enough away from Jack that he can’t show up at my house in the middle of the night and drink all my booze.
JM: There is other booze, don’t pretend like you’re the gatekeeper to all the world’s after-hours drinking.
JS: And the abuse begins.
JM: Yeah, fuck yeah. Let’s talk about this stupid record.
JS: You’re hopeless. Today we’re discussing American Universe, by Manx.
JM: What the fuck is a Manx? I Googled it and as far as I can tell, it’s some kind of mutant cat without a tail.
JS: That’s one connotation, but it’s a pretty broad term referring to the Isle of Man – its people, language, and so on. Those creepy cats originated there.
JM: Oh, so they’re not weird cat fetishists, just inbred Europeans from a tiny island?
JM: Well, the frontman Jason Sheppard is from Casper and is not an inbred European. I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but they’re based in Illinois so I doubt it. Anything is possible I suppose.
JM: So. What the fuck is a Manx?
JS: Right now, Manx is a rock band with a pretty solid self-released debut.
JM: And some questionable album art. When I first saw it, I thought, “What kind of butthole disco are you making me listen to now?” but then I got the joke.
JS: It struck me as a little goofy too, but it puts the concept on the table with a dose of humor so you know that they’re not taking themselves way too seriously.
JM: Finally. Everyone is so far up their own asses lately. You can’t mention anything without somebody taking it personally and getting pissed off. I love stirring the pot, but I’ve avoided Facebook like the fucking plague because of the election bullshit and now there’s all this gun mania. Fuck. Everybody shut the fuck up and go outside! Turn the fucking TV and the computer and the goddamn phone off and listen to some music!
JS: Agreed. Also, I think that’s kind of the point of the second track, “Fair and Balanced.”
JM: With that line, deny them access to your mind, yeah that one is definitely a highlight. They have every opportunity to shit out another pointless “liberals versus conservatives” snivel-off, but instead they remind us that we’re being fucked from every angle.
JS: Exactly. The defining lyric for me is: Left or right / it’s ourselves they want us to fight.
JM: It’s kinda got that backwards Yoda phrasing, but yeah, it works. Most bands would be up on a fucking pedestal, blasting us with a golden shower of borrowed ideologies to keep their Twitter fan base swooning over how politically in-touch they are.
JS: Nope, they keep it nice and cynical so old pricks like us can enjoy it.
JM: Is that why they sound like they were weaned on all the best rock from the 90′s? Bad career move, Manx. You know what else was a bad career move? Not trying to sound like a vat of Eddie Vedder’s mom’s used douche.
JS: And I thank them for that. The 90′s vibe is definitely present, but they’ve modernized it enough to set it apart.
JM: I’m surprised I haven’t said the word “Muse” more, which is good and bad.
JS: The Muse influence is huge.
JM: I think that’s my biggest problem with this album. There isn’t much I haven’t heard before. I like that they want Americans to look at what a bunch of entitled assholes we are, and they can fucking play, but they need to pull their dicks out of the Muse playbook and start waving them around in other faces.
JS: I… agree. I think. Sorta. I mean, these guys kick out high-energy rock that’s accessible without being insipid like most of the current radio slop, but they still sound too dependent on their influences. I want to see them move forward, create their own edge, which I think they can do without abandoning the sounds that birthed them.
JM: Dicks in faces. They don’t need edge, they need more balls. Or drugs. The best parts of American Universe also remind me of the new Baroness album, Yellow & Green, but they would be better with the balls of Baroness’ older stuff. “Parasite,” where he says, you’re draining me / like a parasite, that song needs those big Red balls.
JS: Of course you’re referring to the Baroness album titled Red, not that the band needs to grow large crimson stones, right?
JS: Right. Well, aside from the balls issue, the parasite metaphor is a bit tired, but the song still has a lot of potential.
JM: Yeah, the tune’s not bad. It’s got some pretty tough riffs, but a “fuck you” song has to grab you by the dude-prunes and really just let you have it. It’s not a “fuck you” song unless you limp away with spit dripping off your face, you know?
JS: Not really.
JM: Also, what’s with the vocab-word song titles? Cataplexy: the art of stretching a feline from one end of your apartment to the other without killing it.
JS: Nope. Oddly enough, cataplexy has more in common with Stendhal Syndrome than cats, so we can put that name-origin theory to bed.
JM: Stendhal Syndrome is a real thing? I thought it was some bullshit you made up that means “I love Radiohead more than air.”
JS: Google is your friend. Use it!
JM: You shutting your goddamn mouth is also my friend.
JS: We’ve probably babbled long enough, but there is a lot more to say about this album. On early listens, I kinda glossed over a few songs like “The Lesson” and “China” that wound up being some of my favorites. This is a record I definitely need to spend more time with.
JM: This album isn’t blowing any minds, but it doesn’t suck. 16 out of 26 of Yoda’s Mutant Bastard Children Peddling Dictionaries for Flannel.
JS: Impressive! I think the mind-blowing is coming. It’s not here yet, but pay attention. I’ll give it 20 out of 26 of Yoda’s Mutant Bastard Children Peddling Dictionaries for Flannel.