Embracing delusion with Love Among The Mannequins

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Toby Hayes is one of those fecund wonderadults (a more seasoned wonderchild?) in the music world that just continues to push out release after release with very little notice. Because of this, we’ve done a retrospective of Hayes’ work here at Impose, whose hard-to-track oeuvre comprises multiple short-lived projects under many a different moniker. His most well-known outfit these days is Eugene Quell, his slacked-out neo-grunge alter-ego. Hayes is also a member of two other active bands in his hometown of Brighton, U.K.: Bermuda Ern (featuring members of Vincent Vocoder Voice and the lunchtime sardine club) and Love Among The Mannequins, who just released an EP entitled My Uncle’s Ball of Lightning Will Put an End to Your Warped Psychology (henceforth conveniently abbreviated MUBoLWPaEtYWP). Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but unlike some bands that do the whole longer-names-are-better thing, it’s actually justified considering the EP’s inspiration.

On the band’s Bandcamp, Love Among The Mannequins cite Milton Rokeach’s landmark psychological study The Three Christs of Ypsilanti as the EP’s main influence. A cursory glance at the book’s Wikipedia page later—”To study the basis for delusional belief systems, Rokeach brought together three men who each claimed to be Jesus Christ and confronted them with one another’s conflicting claims, while encouraging them to interact personally as a support group”—and suddenly the EP’s frenetically calculated schizophrenia is given some context.

MUBoLWPaEtYWP begins with a cross-faded and apolitical version of “America”, the song most of us would call, “That ‘my country tis of thee’ song.” It plays like the opening of “The American Metaphysical Circus” by The United States of America; fading in and out of focus while never actually achieving complete clarity. There’s something disconnected and unsettling about it, a perfect introduction to the EP’s subject matter. And just in case the EP’s title wasn’t enough of a mouthful, its second track takes the proverbial inconvenient-name cake. Titled “Dr. Domino Dominorum et Rex Rexarum Simplus Christianus Puer Mentalis Doktor Jesus Christ of Nazereth (re​-​incarnation of)”, the song is alternative rock at its best. Channeling mid-aughts alternative and seeming to pay homage to The Mars Volta’s polysyllabic lyrics, MUBoLWPaEtYWP‘s first proper track indicates the EP is a turn from 2011’s more technical Radial Images, quite possibly the British equivalent of Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Lenses Alien.

“My Name’s Clyde Benson; That’s My Name Straight”, named after one of the subjects of Rokeach’s study, shifts from a derision of the subject’s true self (Clyde Benson) to a full immersion into his perceived identity (“My name’s Jesus Christ/That’s my name straight”). Between an interplay of eraser-fuzz vs. pencil-point guitars, the vocals are shaky but delivered with conviction, unequivocal in their delivery but contradictory in their lyrics: the speaker declares “Anyone with testicles is a Christ,” yet grapples with the idea of the self, caught somewhere between Jesus and Clyde Benson. And speaking of testicles, there’s a good bit Freudian genital fixation shit going on here. On “Joseph Cassel or John Michael Ernahue or God, D​-​16”, the most memorable lyric is “Scratch a testicle and you’ll find an ovary.” You wouldn’t expect lyrics of this sort over pretty palatable 90s-throwback alt-rock, but there it is, nestled in a blanket of angry guitars and busy drums. It’s like Sunny Day Real Estate turned more esoteric and less lachrymose. But that comparison stops short on the EP’s last track.

Even though “Madame Yeti Woman” is MUBoLWPaEtYWP‘s last track (not to mention its shortest song title), it is definitely its best. But using the word “best” barely encapsulates the pure bliss of the song’s arc, beginning as a soft-spoken acoustic quasi-ballad and ascending to a female-fronted, string section-backed climax. After listing a bunch of neurotransmitters in the song’s introduction, the EP reaches its concordant height, but falls right back into discordant cerebral malleability as the vocals whisper, “Tomorrow, I’m coming/Tomorrow I promise.” It’s a form pretty unique to this track; “Madame Yeti Woman” runs tangential to the loud-quiet-trope by transitioning between consonance and dissonance, constructing a song out of what sounds subjectively “good” and bad.” Shape shifting and gender-bending, MUBoLWPaEtYWP‘s characters turn female when Hannah Clarke gradually takes over the vocals. Although the lyrics are hard to discern, Clarke’s portion of the song deals with love and loss, maybe of the self, or maybe with the other (or even both). Either way, “Madame Yeti Woman” is a phenomenal finish to MUBoLWPaEtYWP‘s perverse phrenology, dissecting and obfuscating what it means to be delusional. Maybe it’s an embrace of delusion–and if it is, it’s not hard to be on Love Among The Mannequin’s side in their holy search for identity.

My Uncle’s Ball of Lightning Will Put an End to Your Warped Psychology is available for pay-what-you-want on Love Among The Mannequin’s Bandcamp, though they’re using the profits from album sales to finance their next full length, so pay up!