In Mannequin/Actriz’s music, intercourse is in every single place and would possibly sound like something—a meltdown in a crowded practice, a horrible battle heard by means of the wall, the crunch and squeal of two colliding automobiles—however by no means, at any level, does it sound like very a lot enjoyable. Lead vocalist Cole Haden howls about bodily need as if it have been a loathsome, all-consuming affliction: “With a body count/Higher than a mosquito,” he wails on “Mosquito,” the album’s first single and assertion of intent. Lust as contagion, as predation, as Biblical plague: Each as performer and author, Haden goals to make a harrowing, provocative, typically hilarious mess of all of it, and succeeds wildly.
Though Dogsbody marks their debut full-length, recorded largely throughout the pandemic and launched by way of True Panther final week, Mannequin/Actriz have been beautiful small New York audiences since their formation in 2016. Stay, Haden prowls the stage and wanders into the group to confront viewers members, whereas behind him, the band unleashes an unholy however expertly contained clatter and blare, Ruben Radlauer’s drums and guitarist Jack Wetmore’s sculpted shrieks merging right into a single sensory assault. “Everything is a drum,” stated bassist Aaron Shapiro succinctly when requested in regards to the band’s method.
On the floor, their sound recollects early-’00s New York dance-punk bands like Liars, however Mannequin/Actriz are a contact too haunted to fit neatly into the continuing “indie sleaze” motion. The lyrics sheet writhes with clenched palms, bit lips, shut eyes, ragged breaths, trickling fluids—intercourse scene as slasher movie, as Grand Guignol. Haden has informed interviewers that he began writing their “sex positive” materials whereas nonetheless a virgin, and the lyrics ring with the wide-eyed terror and non secular ecstasy of latest initiation.
Haden doesn’t sing, precisely. He declaims, his supply touchdown someplace between impassioned moan and battlefield soldier’s dying grunt. “Delicious/And everything’s gushing/Ripe and crimson,” he mutters on “Mosquito.” “All night/Me and my wretched device,” he shrieks in “Donkey Show.” A number of the traces are so ripe they really feel able to drop off a tree: “Doric colonnades leading up the drive/Staring down the verdigris covered faces of the divine.” If there was a wink in his supply, the entire thing would collapse into giggles, however Haden’s devotion to his chosen aesthetic is unblinking and fearless. He’s the proper host, a magnetic and unlikely mix of Joel Gray from Cabaret and the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow.
Haden has cited the musical Cats as lifelong inspiration and stated the album is supposed to “feel like my life, as a cabaret: a very earnest, kind of ridiculous, melodramatic, homespun opera.” Within the album’s most charged moments—on the subdued “Divers,” as an example, when he whispers the road “I seem to find it/But not within myself”—he sounds earnest, even operatic. Nevertheless it’s a measure of the band’s swagger and confidence that the phrase “ridiculous” by no means as soon as suggests itself.