The Hand To Man Band: You Are Always On Our Minds. Album Review.

The Hand To Man Band: You Are Always On Our Minds (Post Consumer Records)
DL/CD/LP
Out: 22nd May


You will hopefully have read our interview with various members of The Hand To Man Band last week. The band comprise of, amongst others, Mike Watt & John Dieterich (Deerhoof). The interview was largely about the album the guys were about to release, an album due out on Tuesday. Following is a review of this album by one of our writers,
Leanne Durr.

When MCA aka Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys recently passed away Mike Watt‘s facebook post read along the lines of:

This man, brother Adam… how he could work the bass! respect!

learner watt.

This about sums Watt up; he is genuinely humble and for a man who has had such a large influence on music with the Minutemen, to fiREHOSE, to being part of the reunited Stooges, to Mike Watt + the Missingmen, he is genuinely a breath of fresh air. Yet, he is still open to learning even though he already possesses an exceptional talent.

This is probably what makes him such a great artist as being self aware and acknowledging that you can always improve keeps you open minded and allows for innovation.

So, here Watt is again innovating, and this time it is with The Hand To Man Band; a super band consisting of Deerhoof guitarist John Dietrich, Silver Jews drummer Tim Barnes, and Tsigoti pianist Thollem McDonas. Each member is fully accomplished in their own right and shares the same open-minded approach to music as Watt.

The Hand To Man Band’s debut album ”˜You Are Always On Our Minds’ was recorded in Austin back in 2010. With each member involved in many different projects the album took a while to come to the public’s attention.

However, 2012 sees the release of the album of which the title came from a fortune cookie that Watt had opened after a Chinese meal during one of the band’s sessions.

John Dietrich explains that almost everything came from improvisations and that the band didn’t come to the sessions with any pre-conceptions they just quite simply wanted something to evolve naturally.

During its marketing the album has been described as “psychotropic jazz to konked-out funk to skronked-out dirges to alien transmissions to plaintive nocturnal pleas” and this is probably the most accurate and honest description of an album from any press release ever!

On a first listen a lot of the album initially comes across as disjointed and ”˜out-there’, but after a while you can almost hear past this through to the connection of each of the musician’s perspective.

First Shallows (listen above) and Occasional Cracker fully embody the psychotic jazz element, with the feel of free flowing jams.

Whereas the minimal vocals of Forces Conspiring seems more than anything to plant an idea, the vocal simply says: ”˜why not’.

The addition of minimalistic approach to vocals does give a more relatable edge to the tracks. For instance a song such as We Learned The Unreasoning has a longer vocal on album and does make you feel more connected.

A lot of the tracks on the album such as They Pretty Right, Voice Thrower and Slow Choirds use the sound of what seems like interference on a radio from alien transmission, giving a sinister feel to the tracks.

Farces Perspiring is a more chilled out instrumental, whereas Semina System brings a heavier feel, it is with these tracks, and also The Down Moveables, where the album clicks into place and starts to surpass what at first seems disjointed.

Initially it could seem quite a difficult album to get into, but the more you understand the band’s perspective on the album the more it makes sense. After a couple of listens you are able to transcend preconceptions and appreciate the Hand To Man Band’s desire to approach the making of the album with open minds and the free flowing improvised sessions which ultimately became the finished album.

Some more info about the album can be read on Thollem’s website here and the album can be pre-ordered here.

All words Leanne Durr.

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