The Kingsbury Manx aren’t your typical pop band. Their name sounds British, they’re from North Carolina but don’t sound Southern, and they eschew the typical catchy pop hooks. The title of their latest album, “The Fast Rise and Fall of the South,” sounds like it could be used for a Faulkner seminar; instead, it’s the moniker for an album that has that has one song that could be waltzed to, another that ends in a blare of feedback and a third that uses wine glasses as backing instruments.
The band sounds a bit like early Kinks (singer Bill Taylor sounds an awful lot like Ray Davies) meets Simon & Garfunkel — sort of a folk/pop/alt-country hybrid. It’s no surprise that Wilco’s Mike Jorgensen produced the record — Jeff Tweedy and company were probably a bit of an influence (and rumor has it that the Manx boys will be opening for Wilco on their next tour). Manx songs have clean lines and a delicacy that feels as if every element has been carefully placed — if I had one problem with the CD, it would be that it feels almost too controlled.
Though the band shared songwriting duties on previous albums, Taylor penned all the tunes here, which gives the album an overall cohesiveness. Clarque Blomquist and Ryan Richardson provide bass and drums — and yes, Blomquist employs wine glasses in the song “Zero G.” Keyboards play a vital role on the record — in some places, piano and/or organ act as a foundation for the songs — and Paul Finn handles those duties.
The highlight of the CD is the song, “I0008” — named because it was the eighth song they recorded. The song basically has no chorus and no hooks; you just glide through the verses until the song crescendos with guitar feedback and synthesizers. “Break the summer and send my love / Hand and hand we’ll live on the run,” Taylor sings, making you think that perhaps you’re getting a love song. But then he follows those lines with, “Ghastly thoughts, uneasy whores / They understand a deal like yours.” You really won’t find love songs on this CD, at least not in the typical sense.
Another great tune is “What a Shame,” which has a lovely French horn between verses, and is about a couple who’s grown bored with each other. “‘I feel so sedated,’ said she / ‘some illusion’ said me / ’cause this is what lives / are supposed to be.” Like the music, the lyrics are understated. There are no shirt-ripping theatrics here — instead, I imagine Taylor on a train, watching the world go by and reflecting on everything he sees — and on his own life.
Even without the lyrics, the music suggests the leisurely chugging of train travel. Finn breaks out the Wurlitzer throughout the album, giving the songs a swirling, almost hypnotic quality — and again really underscoring that this album is meant to be taken as a whole, rather than in bits.
“The Fast Rise and Fall of the South” is an album that should be savored. These guys may not call a lot of attention to themselves, but don’t be surprised if, after listening to them, you find your thoughts rolling along to a new soundtrack.
For more information on the Kingsbury Manx, visit: http://www.thekingsburymanx.com/