CD Review

That Man Fantastic – “Pop Songs for Art Films”

By Marcus Pan

Pop Songs for Art FilmsNice and slow, easy and breezy, debut release from Stephen Duffy’s That Man Fantastic, Pop Songs for Art Films, is a test of experimentalism touched with a bit of basement shoe gazing. A nice, soft, smooth combination there, and a strange irony in the name – pop songs…for art films? Art films are avente-garde collections of imagery, certainly not popular film. Duffy tests your ability to sense the popular sensibilities and light touch of style here in Pop Songs for Art Films by taking it and imbuing it with viscereal qualities…it would be good in art films, yet it still retains a bit of modern popular stylings in its execution.

Joining hands with Brother Jack Elder on guitar, Randal Mitros on drums, David A. Brooks on bass and William Duke on guitar and vocals as well as Stephen Duffy himself, That Man Fantastic is like taking a bloody brilliant trip while relaxing in a pastel colored jazz lounge. Tracks like The Airport Song (She’s Never Comin’ Back) take depressive sensibilities like the departure of someone special and treat it with bright jazz melodies and brushed percussion to make even that sound kind of nice.

The Prayer meanwhile will get ethereal and otherworldly, slow, almost brooding…dragging ass along the path of life and just wishing for something interesting to happen as Stephen croons beautifully – it comes across as a New Orleans or NY city streets folk song, a Kumbaya style to it. The slowly moving piano ballad of Layer Upon Layer, with Duffy’s subdued vocals, makes for a nice eye-closing reliever of anxiety.

From the beginning now, Second Skin is a smooth strumming jaunt imbued with a sense of loss, but holding it in check with a tad of brighter movements. Just to Hold You (If Only) delves into a bit of bossa nova, surprising but enjoyable. We close with a bit of silliness with a quick reprise of Or All 6? From track 5. Or All 6? is a fun romp through a childish landscape of surreality and weirdness.

You won’t find anything blaring, obnoxious, metalriffic or stompladen anywhere on Pop Songs for Art Films. Instead you’ll find a nice way to induce a bit of tranceyness using more folk styles and older instrumentation without the need for modern electronics to set the tone. Breathing in the anxiety of the modern city streets, That Man Fantastic layer it with smooth popular, jazz and shoegazery sounds and releases it back to us as personally as possible, creating a nice ethereal atmosphere without having to resort to the Casio and Korgs that everyone else needs to set the tone for them.

Contact Information:
That Man Fantastic
Post: PO Box 20574, Oakland, CA, 94620
Phone: (510) 329-7020