Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are so many endearing qualities to Chicago's Mannequin Men that you're not necessarily sure where to start. We'll start where you usually start with another person - their looks. Now these fellas are ragged most of the time. They're the boys - upon first inspection, just eyeing them - that you wouldn't want your daughter to bring home prior to going out on a date with one of them. You'd be wrong of course and you'd be that protective father who stereotypically thinks he can spot a bad apple from a mile away. They look like they've been in a bar all night and not one of those clean and fresh-air bars like they've all turned into over the last five years, but one where the smoke rips out the door in thick waves anytime it's opened. The bourbon is part of what makes their skin look the color that it does, or at least that's the hunch. It's likely all wrong and we'll feel embarrassed later when we're set straight.
We'll be shamed into admitting that they are smart young lads who treat our daughter the way she deserves to be treated and that they make her happy. They also turned out to be the kinds of guys who are loyal friends. Sure, they may get out there on a bender or two, whooping it up with those old buddies on occasion, but it's all done in the name of fun and only mild mischief. They're the kinds of guys who have no vanity and they're known to stay up late at night AFTER the bar reading books of literature and paying for their sleeplessness the following day when they're at their day jobs.
The songs on the band's latest album - a self-titled affair - are brimming with killer garage rock melodies, but ones that travel into more refined, rather than gutter-y directions than on previous efforts. They're cleaner and more unabashed. Lead singer Kevin Richard has blossomed into a fetching singer and a writer who fully understands the power and capability of a good hook. He's winning more with the honey that he's putting out there and even songs, like the hard on their luck, but still out exploring America "Van," there's a feeling of rampant freedom and a sense that it's good to be alive, even if there are problems galore and there's no money padding anyone's account. They're the kinds of guys who don't fill their tanks up at gas stations, but put in $10 here and five dollars there, just to keep them moving across the land, from one place to the next. It's a charming way to get by, if you can handle it. And it's a great kind of life to get to write and sing about. The bumps and the body odor come right out of the speakers.