Kingdom of Noise

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It might have been recorded in 2008, but from the opening twang of "Shadow of the Hand," Kingdom of Noise sounds like it could have been cut at any point during Man's years of greatest power, a slow burning blues that rides a riff not a million miles from "Walk This Way," but bent in such different directions that the song's eventual shift into harmonic pop comes as no shock at all. Which is exactly what you expected from Man back then, and it's great that they can still deliver it. The band's first album since 2006's Diamonds and Coal, and the last to be recorded with George Jones and Bob Richards, Kingdom of Noise does steer clear of the epics that were the band's original calling card -- the jumpy "Russian Roulette" is the longest thing in sight, at a shade under eight minutes. But Martin Ace has such a strong hand at the tiller that even brevity packs an epic quality, while there's a looseness to the overall sound that seems to place the band smack bang in your living room. The title track, all brushes and whispers, and a gently tinkling piano, is especially effective, while the singalong swagger of "Standing in the Rain" carves out what has to be a new concert classic. Indeed, Kingdom of Noise could well rank up there with any of our old favorite Man albums, and it's better than a few of them, as well.

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