Man Man - Carrot On Strings - New Orange LP

Man Man - Carrot On Strings - New Orange LP

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Format: New Sealed Coloured LP Label: Sub Pop Cat. No. SP1550X

Barcode: 098787155006

Released: 07/06/2024

New album by idiosyncratic LA act Man Man draws on Krautrock, Italo-disco, oddball prog, and the films of Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder for a wildly entertaining art-pop romp.

When Man Man released its last album, Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In Between, frontman Honus Honus (née Ryan Kattner) was in a state of unrest, oscillating between hope and cynicism. Perhaps fittingly, the album dropped during the pandemic, a time at which we could all relate. But, much like that bizarre turn of events, the ennui now seems so distant to Man Man. A revived sense of purpose washes through Man Man’s new album, Carrot on Strings, radiating a mix of calm and confidence.  Kattner always embodied a wild-man pied-piper vibe: his melodic, unhinged art-rock was at once intriguing and angsty. He was so alluringly creative that you went along with it, even if you were never sure where Man Man would take you. Carrot on Strings is no less inventive, but its ethos is radical in context of the band’s two-decade career. “When I was younger, I would feed off of chaos. I would, you know, be upset and get drunk and smash chairs,” Kattner explains. “Now those chairs are in my head: It's less of an outward projection, more of an interior monologue.”

The name “Carrot on Strings” came to Kattner while experimenting with the sound of someone munching on the vegetable, which you can hear in the cacophonous, similarly named song. It alludes to how success always seemed to dangle uncertainly before him, often just out of reach. But listen intently and you’ll hear a more content Kattner finding an uneasy peace: “Life, as far as I’ve known it, has always been side hustles. Would it be great if I could go into a studio and record for a year without figuring out how to finance it? Yeah, it would be,” he says. “But ultimately, I need to keep making music because art is an extension of my psyche. It’s how I have learned to translate the palpitations of my heart. Simply put, I’d go insane without it.”  Growing up as a multiracial Hapa kid (half Filipino, half white) with a father in the U.S. Air Force, Kattner lived an itinerant childhood that included a few pivotal years in Germany, where he honed in on an appreciation for out there German cinema and art. His film obsessions and screenwriting background were crucial to Carrot on Strings. The album nods to the films of Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder as much as Italo-disco, Randy Newman, goth rock, and avant pop. (Kattner continues to work in the film industry with an acting role in the upcoming horror-comedy movie Destroy All Neighbors, for which he also served as composer; music supervising season 1 and 2 of the Interview With The Vampire AMC TV series; and shopping around, with director Matthew Goodhue, a script he wrote that he describes as a Wim Wenders road movie on acid.) In a bid to not overthink anything - his last album took seven years to make - he recorded the bulk of Carrot On Strings in five days in Mant Sounds studio in Glassell Park, Los Angeles with “very chill” producer Matt Schuessler, who had worked on Man Man’s cover of Neu!’s “Super” for the seminal Krautrock band’s box set.  

The resulting album represents a newfound sense of self for Kattner, who finds himself inspired and at peace both personally and artistically in ways that eluded him for most of his first 15 years playing music. When, on Carrot On Strings, you hear Kattner croon humbly, or sing of the tension between his outsize stage persona and the thoughtful, soulful guy he actually is, you’re hearing Kattner liberate himself. “I first got into music to escape from myself,” he says. “And now, it sounds so corny, but I have zero doubt that music ended up saving my life.”