Mel Gibson and the Pants: A Mannequin American

Mel Gibson and the Pants
A Mannequin American
Totally Gross National Product

With no disrespect meant toward little-known Tejano combo Jehoshaphat and Jodhpurs, Mel Gibson and the Pants is quite possibly the finest band to employ a pseudonymous-front-person-plus-trouser-themed-backing-band moniker since Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans. Soon, however, I suspect that some smooth-talking manager will sit down with this Twin Cities hip-hop noise band and say something like: Fellas (managers always use friendly, informal language when talking with musicians), I think it's time we talk about me taking all your money and forcing you to change the name of your band. Because despite what Christopher Marlowe said about roses being roses even if some wag insists on calling them tube socks, there's a lot in a name. That's why no one called Soupy or Slappy has ever won an Academy Award, and why the actor whose birth certificate reads Marion "I'm Afraid of Horses" Morrison changed his name to John Wayne.

I say all this because one would expect Mel Gibson and the Pants to make goofy music. They don't. In fact, the group's debut A Mannequin American is quite serious, even spooky--horror-movie spooky, with synthesizer and guitar shrieks and cries, minor-key ostinatos, and references to Ed Gein. Even "Antique Lures," which closes the album with a nod to 1980s nostalgia, makes leg warmers and break dancing sound as ominous as mutual assured destruction.

Mannequin is a mix of experimental hip hop and minimalist instrumental rock that at various times recalls Can, El-P, Tortoise, Led Zeppelin, and OutKast. The title cut begins with a reference to OutKast's "Return of the 'G'," as if rapper Harold Sanders wanted to acknowledge right off the Louisville Slugger that he sounds a bit like Dré (a touch like Bubba Sparxxx, too, though Sanders isn't Southern). Other times his drawl gets crunk in the shadows while an electronic funk-rock band jams in the foreground. And while those jams sometimes amble aimlessly like a dotted-line path from The Family Circus, most of the time they're disciplined, dramatic, and heady, not to mention ruggedly handsome like Mel Gibson, and fat like Hammer pants.

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