Band Name: Mannequin Men
Album Name: Showbiz Witch
Best Element: Clean guitars, mix of old school punk and grunge
Genre: Early grunge, Old School Punk
Label Name: Swamp Angel Records
Band Email: www.myspace.com/mannequinmen
Hailing from the Chicago area and working to conquer it since their conception in 2003, the Mannequin Men proclaim themselves as a live act not to be reckoned with; one can’t argue the energy present within their songs. Ten songs fueled by the phantoms of Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, and other grunge and punk gods, the Mannequin Men’s album Showbiz Witch comes off as the perfect dose for an angst junkie. Though the album lacks amazing quality as it was recorded reel-to-reel in the band’s loft, for all true grunge and punk fans, quality of sound will not matter.
The opener “Liar” immediately gets your head bobbing along to the guitars of Ethan D’Ercole and Kevin Kujawa. An overshadowing yet desired clean guitar proves right away that you don’t need distortion on 10 to be heavy. What the music lacks in gain is replaced with raw energy and attitude, as evident in Kujawa’s strained vocals and Seth Bohn’s hard-hitting drumming.
Eerie and dark, the title track “Showbiz Witch” is a standout on the album and redeems the previous tracks’ fault. With echoes of Nirvana’s rawness on songs like “Paper Cuts”, the song puts the listener in a trance. Kujawa sings lower, grungier vocals while D’Ercole glides over bassist Rick Berger’s dark melodious rhythm.
“Sex off T.V.” comes off as almost a joke, being a “song” with no real musical depth to it at all. Instead, bland vocals crawl over dozens of random effects and background noises (kudos to organizing that on a recording). Though the lyrics are slightly more intriguing and deeper than most songs on the album, the utter lack of music leaves the song a turn-off. “Spiders in the Hallway” is more unnecessary noise except for a part of the verse where Kujawa sings softly, quietly, over peaceful music that is one of his best vocal performances on the album.
Starting with peaceful and by now familiar clean guitars, “Dissect” descends into heavy flowing chords. Kujawa’s English punk influence is unmistakable in this song, and the haunting vocals he provides make this one of the better songs on the CD. Bohn and co. thunder out a rocking march beat in the tune to keep the listener’s heart beating, wondering where the song will go next and adding dynamics all the while.
With ups and downs, Showbiz Witch is definitely not a savior album of any kind to either grunge or punk. It is, however, testimony that the energy and emotion infused in both genres of music will not soon vanish; not as long as the Mannequin Men are around to say anything about it.