Cinema Cinema – Man Bites Dog

Posted: 10 April 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

28th April 2017

My first encounter with Cinema Cinema was in 2012, when I received their sprawlingly epic double album Manic Children and the Slow Aggression for review, and landed an interview for Paraphilia Magazine with Ev Gold. Not only was it a remarkable album, but Ev proved to be a great interview subject: enthusiastic, affable, conversational, and I recall him singing ‘cinema, cinema,’ as he explained the origins of the band’s name to me. I didn’t recall the scene, but I knew the film in question: the dark, Belgian-made, parodic documentary, Man Bites Dog. As the press info accompanying the release of their latest album, ‘after years of explaining… the duo felt compelled to further affix it to their story by naming the new album after the film.

With the band’s gear – including all of their guitars – being stolen just two days into the recording sessions, Man Bites Dog is testament to the sheer determination and bloody-mindedness of one of the hardest-working bands around. Brooklyn duo Ev and cousin Paul Claro have gigged pretty much relentlessly since their formation, and it’s on the road that the material has been evolved and honed. This adherence to the punk ethos, based on the simple premise of two guys in a van, showing up, plugging in and playing hard. So, using borrowed gear, the album’s recording went ahead regardless. Never mind making lemonade from lemons, the very existence of this album proves that Cinema Cinema thrive in the face of adversity, and are completely unstoppable.

Man Bites Dog continues the trajectory of its predecessors, from the aforementioned Manic Children and through 2014’s Night at the Fights. That is to say, it’s a noisy, guitar-driven beast of an album, that veers wildly between crunching riffs and expansive experimental space-rock sections. On this outing, they expand their sound with the addition of saxophone, courtesy of NY jazz musician Matt Darriau.

The first track, ‘Bomb Plot is a lurching, low-slung racket, a crazed hybrid of US hardcore punk and math-rock, with a snaking groove and a fuck-ton of other stuff going on too.

‘Run Until Your Out’ packs a pot-punk vibe in the verses, then explodes into a roaring grunge chorus. It’s a complete riot, and while all sorts of incidentals whizz and whirr in the background and Gold comes on like Jello Biafra one moment and Kurt Cobain the next, it’s remarkable just how direct and accessible it is. It’s no small achievement that they can pen and perform a song that possesses such an overt pop sensibility without sidelining either their full-throttle rock sound or reining in the experimentalism. And it’s this fine-honing that makes Man Bites Dog their most powerful and potent work to date.

‘Exotic Blood’ represents the album’s first foray into more overtly experimental territory: a six-minute stoner rock work out, there’s a hefty riff, but it’s warped and bends all over the place in a way which invites comparisons to Melvins – until the sax comes in and takes it somewhere else completely while a whole heap of stuff goes off in every direction. Indeed, the album’s mid-section marks quite a change in tone from the opening salvoes, with the discordant riffs, tinged with free jazz flavours and riven with unpredictable tempo changes swathed in drifting noise and wandering sax. ‘You talkin’ to me?’ Gold yells dangerously on ‘Taxi Driver’, another song which reflects the duo’s equal appreciation of film and music. It’s also a song which chops and changes and stops and starts and judders and drives. The end result is little short of deranged: tense and strange and forceful, it packs a lot into a short time.

The thunderous, trudging ‘Mask of the Red Death’ is the soundtrack to a truly purgatorial experience that breaks into a monster stoner riff that’s hard to resist, picking up the pace and beefing up the density until hitting a frenetic peak around four minutes in. The obligatory ‘Shiner’ improvised jam track – the album’s closer being the fifth in the series – typically explores the band’s most experimental tendencies, and it’s nine minutes of angular guitars, wild effects and even wilder sax.

It all adds up to a focused, concise and yet still strangely divergent album, and in this way, Man Bites Dog is perhaps the most perfect encapsulation of Cinema Cinema’s sound, scope, and ethos to date.

 

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