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.
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.
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