Subjective is the word “heavy.” Heavy is the word “subjective.”
Meet MAN’S GIN: an Americana-Folk project helmed by Erik Wunder; an atypical singer-songwriter who moonlights as the mastermind behind the (initially) Colorado-based COBALT. Bursting with Wunder’s distinct ideologies, the band’s Acoustic full-length debut, “Smiling Dogs,” exudes ample doses of the heavy sans the crush and roar, instead opting to fuse all the emotive subtleties and partialities of a painfully wonderful folktale.
It’s quite the strange brew. You have Wunder’s expressive and Grungy vocals crooning over songs that are equally soaked in tortured days of gray. Now a citizen of Brooklyn, New York, it’s really no big surprise. I mean, the New Jersey Nets are moving there. Accompanied by Josh Lozano on up-right bass and guitarist/pianist Scott Edward, MAN’S GIN has evolved from its Colorado days as a two-man band in 2005 to something slightly bigger in personnel and grander in musical output.
Filled with stories of love and anger and heroes and enemies, “Smiling Dogs” plays the way an excellent work of literature would. There’s a density, a simplicity, and an authenticity that is unmistakable. Characters come and go, the narrator pleads and yells and tells it the way he sees it, and the moral, well, it’s subjective; you can think what you want, but there’s no refuting how fluidly it all works on “Smiling Dogs.”
The “Nuclear Ambition” duo introduces the listener to Wunder’s post-apocalyptic dynamism, “The Death of Jimmy Sturgis” surges the character study flow, and the splendidly heartbreaking “Hate. Money. Love. Woman” packs you into a pillowcase and sends you off daydreaming.
It may not be Metal, but you can’t deny its brutal honesty. A tremendous album.
(Online April 15, 2011)