Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge)


t’s valuable and illuminating (not to mention deeply and gently unnerving) to step back for a second and consider the mechanics of something so common sensical as “convention,” which basically enables us to accommodate for a certain amount of experiences while sparing a catastrophic overload of our cognitive faculties (i.e. the fact that there is orange juice at the grocery store). It’s certainly one of our utmost blessings to not have to “think” and “process” every stimulus we encounter, instead referring to a reservoir of understanding designed to maintain our mental stability: “convention.” And yet, society loves (even if it wiggles around uncomfortably) a good exploration/challenge of it, as evidenced by the subtly embedded trend of treating convention-dodging practice, art, or what-have-you as immediately worth more attention, consideration, and sometimes investment than examples that go with the proverbial yet boring “flow.”

Part of this bears on notions of taste: there are some people that are into records like Out of Breach, Mu’s second offering of club-floored agit-bile, and some who aren’t, in large part because the record’s most obvious quality is its unflinching originality and its position as an acidic affront to our comfort as listeners. Now, of course this isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing; lots of great records expand our expectations of music, temporarily loosen the golden handcuffs of convention, and refresh our senses. It would be simply irresponsible not to recognize the bucketfuls of great music created within the realm of convention, and the just as many records that, instead of being “challenging,” simply move beyond the pale into a mediocre state of quiet irrelevance.

Out of Breach walks a fine line with mixed results, stewing up various styles of dance and punk (but when you think dance, think high-sheen club thumps and when you think punk, think No New York or early Residents). Maurice Foulton’s production feels a little looser and more forthright than on Afro Finger and Gel, swapping out some of the debut’s paranoid Latin percussion breaks for more breathy material, i.e. the jazzy drums and lubed-up bass of “Stop Bothering Michael Jackson”’s satin pants coda. The same swagger, however, brings us the thrillingly raw nerves of “We Love Guys Named Luke,” a razor-toothed Devo hula-hoop ditty riding a No Wave cloaked in gutted sick-robot vocal processing, complete with noxious atmospheres imported from some tense first-person shooter set on an alien-infested spacecraft.

Similarly, Mu’s other half and Maurice’s wife, Japanese performance artist Musumi Kanamori, has somehow elevated her presence on this record, giving her relentless yelping even more confidence and conviction, bluntly illustrated by the hilariously commandeering album-opening declaration, “welcome to Mu world, beeeeeetch!” Unfortunately, Kanamori’s aggressivity trails off into the realm of self-parody once you realize that pretty much everyone in her crosshairs is a “bitch” (except for those who bear the distinction of being a “hater,” to boot)—certainly a 2-step down from the slightly more thoughtful lyrical tactics of Afro Finger’s “Jealous Kids,” effectively voiding the potential energies of her wild tantrums.

Further down the line, some songs fall into the murky abyss of novelty, which provides a low degree of enjoyment often superceded by idiocy: “Like A Little Bitch” excellently (but purposelessly) invokes the boisterous fake midi-jazz of last-lap Mario Kart, only to emerge as a hoedown of further infant-cuss hysterics. Similarly “I’m Coming To Get You” opens with tingling sexualized eeriness, a threat from a woman done wrong, but veers abruptly into an open-arms synth jaunt through a goofy melody resembling "momma's little baby loves shortnin’, shortnin’, mamma's little baby loves shortinin’ bread,” which simultaneously offers itself for sniggering bliss and negates all possibilities of respecting it.

Out of Breach isn’t without its charms, but with an opening statement as assertive, exiting, and promising as Afro Finger and Gel, it certainly feels a little disappointing. Fulton and Kanamori know how to buck convention in the best of ways, and while there are definitely some strong songs this time around, the album as a whole bears too many “damn, that was craaaaaazy” moments, which, while temporarily satisfying, are ultimately forgettable, employing the gleeful instantaneity of shock without any of its potential reverberation, substituting hollow abrasiveness when inspiration to deeply challenge listeners ran short.

Reviewed by: Mike Powell

Reviewed on: 2005-02-08

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Posted 02/08/2005 - 03:31:00 PM by idunnowhy:
 i liked the album a bit better than you, but i agree with a lot of what you said. Plus, this line is sheer genius: '“Like A Little Bitch” excellently (but purposelessly) invokes the boisterous fake midi-jazz of last-lap Mario Kart'
Posted 02/11/2005 - 01:36:13 AM by daphima:
 really great review, mike. i've heard only parts of "afro finger" and was, even at that album, vaguely turned off by what i heard at the time, but this was a well-executed exploration of what it means for an artist to deal with convention. the fact that you recognize the irresponsibility of overlooking great artists who work within the parameters of convention really resonated with me, and you end up with a definition of what it means to deeply challenge listeners (i.e. provide more than just shock or "that was craaaaaazy" moments) that is wonderful. great job! p.s. it's hard to avoid the urge to let the writer know that they have inspired one's first comment posting, so i won't: you did.
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