Floor Boards

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Manic's major-label debut may only be a five-song EP but that's enough to paint a rather full picture of an ambitious band who is urgently striving to develop their own voice but can't quite shake their influences -- mainly, they can't shake the ghost of Radiohead, who haunts every track on this EP. This Los Angeles quartet is far more earthbound than the Oxford quintet -- the opening "Chemicals for Criminals" is about struggling with a hangover, a sign that they're not quite bothered with the existentialism (that's Thom Yorke's enduring preoccupation), and their music is generally louder and gutsier than Radiohead has been since The Bends. But that doesn't mean that it's possible to get through any of Floor Boards without thinking of Radiohead: it's there in the explosive waves of guitars, the moody washes of electronics, the quivering vocals of Paul Gross, how the songs alternate between spacy melancholia and electrified bursts of angst. Manic is flexible enough to pull off these shifts in tone with ease, but they're not quite developed enough as songwriters to make them memorable as songs, so Floor Boards winds up as simply an intriguing teaser for a full-length debut: if they could harness their ambition and hone their skills, they could deliver an effective album, but they could just as easily be to tied to their idols, whether that's a conscious move or not.

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