We don't only want Man Man to bring the drama—we expect them to. On 2004's The Man in a Blue Turban With a Face and 2006's Six Demon Bag, wickedly charismatic lead singer Honus Honus ranted and railed like his sweater was on fire, and the band bashed and clanged and soared like a gypsy-folk band on Roger Clemens' steroids. Rabbit Habits turns down the amps a bit, though, reduces the Jolt intake and generally bids for newfound maturity and restraint. The surprise is that it mostly works.
Which is not to say that this is dinner-party music—not by a long shot. Electronic blips and squiggles take the place of Honus' well-honed roar at the forefront of the mix. "Big Trouble" piles a cool-jazz xylophone atop skronking, out-of-tune horns. "Rabbit Habits" coasts on a barrelhouse piano loop that's downright sleepy by Man Man standards. And while the instrumentation in the near-ballads works quite well, three-quarter-speed rockers such as "The Ballad of Butter Beans" and "Harpoon Fever" fall between the cracks with hooks too dull to resonate.
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The most successful track is the lovelorn epic "Poor Jackie," which opens with a teary violin solo, then turns into a moody cabaret number, then molts into a violent stop-start rocker, then transmutes once more into a woman's torch song. And album closer "Whalebones" only picks up where that track ends. On Rabbit Habits, gypsy-folk grows bigger by slowing down and growing up.