Man Ray

Casual Thinking

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The sole album by Seattle quartet Man Ray (formerly known as Marble), 1997's Casual Thinking betrays a strong Pixies influence, but lacks the rough edges and unexpected left turns that Black Francis and company turned into a way of life. Indeed, for a band who apparently had a formidable live presence, the album is curiously listless and flabby. Producer Stuart Hallerman gives the songs a little too much gloss, mixing singer/songwriter Josh White's Moog and Optigan touches far too low and taking the bite out of the semi-metallic guitars. The biggest mistake is putting White's lyrics, which are heavy on the eye-rolling pseudo-profundities one normally hears from college freshmen who have just read Ayn Rand for the first time, far too out in front of the above-average melodies. (White has nothing new to say on the nominal topics of "Phallus" and "Smack," among other attempts at big statements.) A noisier production and some better lyrics, or at least a mix that minimized them, and Casual Thinking would have been pretty good. As it is, the group's short shelf life seems almost pre-ordained.

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