The Latest Albums by Man and Son of Man
Anachronism Tango by Man came out in 2019, coinciding with a mini-British tour by a band which was then in its fifty-first year of existence. The band’s previous album had included songs, vocals and keyboards from Phil Ryan, who died in 2016. Is there as much depth in the material and texture without him? Maybe not, but there are still some interesting moments and some good sounds.
With the loss of Ryan, we are back to the father/son dichotomy of Martin (bass/vocals/songs) and Josh (guitar/vocals/songs) Ace*. The contrast between the gloomy son and his upbeat dad appears without futher ado in the album’s first two songs, ‘Too Much Too Soon’ and ‘Still in Love and Trembling’.
Next up, we have what is arguably the standout track, ‘Manor Farm’. It contains a guitar riff reminiscent of band legend Deke Leonard, another luminary who died after the band made their previous album but before this one. It has multiple sections, in true Progressive rock fashion, and contains the refrain ‘Your neck, your chest, bring your funny belly button back home now’. As another joke, the next track starts with a fade-back-in of this one, a sequencing device I don’t think I’ve heard before.
Martin Ace’s humour is helpful in counterbalancing the underlying gloom in Josh’s lyrics, but Ace the younger’s pop sensibilities and memorable themes (as on ‘Half Way Up the Hill’) add gravity between his dad’s more lightweight tunes.
Drummer René Robrahn and second guitarist James Beck play and sound great and Dulli Engel’s album art is effective. Whatever the album lacks in technical expertise in singing and songwriting, it’s not short of personality.
The second effort by Son of Man, State of Dystopia, appeared in 2020. A split from the group Man in 2009 by two of its members and the subsequent joining of forces with others has resulted in a band-of-brothers image, a more mainstream, less quirky, style and a step towards Classic, and away from Progressive, rock. There are echoes of AC/DC and The Who at times.
The first track is ‘Conscience’, a song I have a bootleg of Man playing at a festival in 1969. This new version blows the old one out of the water. Technically, this band have all bases covered, notably with a specialist singer, Richie Galloni, rather than musicians who sing, which is what their parent band always had. The song arrangements are fairly full and traditional, including backing vocals, but all this contributes to the wide appeal that the group seems to have, or could have.
While there is an increased accessibility in the music, the slick sound sometimes verges on blandness, and it is necessary to listen to it with non-music lovers’ ears, or maybe just admire the sonic excellence. ‘As One With the Voice’ seems to be a song about music – a bit of a feedback loop going on there – and ‘March With the Drum’ is generic but well done nevertheless.
The last two tracks are among the strongest, which demonstrates good sequencing. The chorus to ‘New Beginning’ uses half-phrases, which make good lyrics. ‘Too Many Questions’ has a coda which quotes from another Man song, 1995’s ‘If I Were You’, but changes the riff slightly, as if to say “this ain’t no tribute band”.
*2009’s Kingdom of Noise featured only M and J Ace songs but 2015’s Reanimated Memories featured Ryan material.