Manishevitz City Life

[Jagjaguwar; 2003]

Styles: baroque pop, glam rock
Others: Destroyer, The Fall, Roxy Music, David Bowie

Why Adam Busch doesn’t loom larger in the world of independent music is beyond me. A few rave reviews notwithstanding, coverage of his band Manishevitz has been inexplicably spotty over the years. The gaudy 9.0 that their second LP, Rollover, received from Pitchfork in 2000 was apparently not enough to ensure an acknowledgment of its follow-up on that site. Since Tiny Mix Tapes has never reviewed any of Manishevitz’s work, the present review should serve as something of a public apology.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to recognize an artist like Busch, whose talent is perhaps best displayed on his most recent release. City Life possesses the graceful swagger of the urban sophisticate. On the opening track, “Beretta,” Busch introduces his Mark E. Smith-inspired vocals, along with an eclectic array of instruments. In addition to piano, electric guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, City Life also features notable contributions from flute, vibes, and brass. I’m sure you’ll agree that saxophones need to be handled with considerable caution in the rock context ”” I think the NEA officially recommends a nuclear body suit, actually ”” but with City Life, Busch joins a select group of rock artists who’ve been able to harness the sax’s potential without falling into the fromage, as it were, à la the E-Street band.

This is not to say that City Life is flawless. The second half of “Hate Illene” degenerates into boring atmospheric fuzz, and Busch’s considerable vocal charm is not enough to carry the languid “Undercover” (as it does “Go Blind,” a sleepy standout from Rollover). The rest of the record, however, is practically distended with fresh ideas and decadent hooks. In addition to the title song and the aforementioned “Beretta,” which both RULE, the individual-track-minded listener should seek out “Mary Ann” and “Private Lines.” Exuberant and sophisticated, these cuts stand alongside the very best music in the glam tradition this side of Country Life.

Throughout his career ”” which began in the Charlottesville, Virginia, band The Curious Digit ”” Adam Busch has brought an experimental sensibility to pop music. Accordingly, his albums have always kept listeners guessing. In many ways, for example, City Life is a jaunty, ornate, and danceable counterpoint to the thoughtful and spare Rollover. Whatever Manishevitz releases next, the strength of City Life should, hopefully, be enough to ensure that it gets reviewed here and elsewhere.

1. Beretta
2. City Life
3. Hate Illene
4. Mary Ann
5. Undercover
6. Back in the Day
7. Private Lines
8. Rainy Day Revolution
9. Colorado Shore