Mister Manufacture (EP)

Pollens

Behind the Curtains Media, 2017

http://www.facebook.com/pollenspollens

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/01/2017

Pollens has always been a band whose music could not be easily defined. This Brooklyn-based indie pop outfit is avant-garde for sure, but on their latest endeavor, they go even deeper in the realm of the indefinable.

For starters, this EP is all rhythm, and rhythm only. There is no melody in the music or in the singing. The band’s full-length debut, 2012’s Brighten & Break, consisted of vocal harmonies and melodious guitar work, which had some semblance to indie folk music. But ever since the group was reduced to their current duo line-up, their music has gotten sparser and more abstract, first on their 2016 EP ’83nbtc__dv_250 and now on Mister Manufacture.

The music on this release isn’t really “music,” but more like tuned noise combined with ragged drum-machine beats. This rhythmic “music” is raw and primal, but also strangely danceable. The singing – shared equally between its members, founder Jeff Aaron Bryant and new recruit Elizabeth May – goes with the music, as it is more “speaking” than “singing.” The singing, considering the duo’s absurdist lyrics, is crude but super-cathartic, which is a pretty cool combination.

On “J-Train,” a track poking fun at the lifestyle of New Yorkers, the duo recites in unison, “I wish I could take the J-train absolutely everywhere / I wish I could take the J-train everywhere I want to go.” The gleeful “cheerleader” vehemence with which Bryant and May chant these words is creepy, which makes the sarcasm in the cut blatant and simply brilliant.

The duo has said that their songs start as lists, with them reciting items on the list to a beat. The randomness of the lyrics on Mister Manufacture does give this away. However, on the absolutely catchy “Words,” these nonsense words sound like beautiful poetry, as trite and stupid as they might seem: “…inventory, inventory, inventory, inventory, stacks of books, stacks of pens, stacks of shirts on the floor, two speakers, one mattress, one box, and one blanket….” The stoic ferocity with which these words are yelled into the microphone, mixed with the infectious beats accompanying them, is irresistible.

Although sophistication is the last thing Bryant and May might have been trying to attempt on this EP, the complex web of rhythms created by the noises, drum beats, and the singing has a kind of groovy sophistication in all of its apparent coarseness.

Mister Manufacture is certainly not for everyone. But for those who appreciate the likes of certain quirky acts like Devo and The B-52s, it will be almost criminal to not discover this amazingly crazy EP.

Rating: B+

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