Luscious Jackson

In Search of Manny

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Luscious Jackson's connections to the Beastie Boys are significant -- debut EP In Search of Manny was the first release on the group's indie label Grand Royal, drummer Kate Schellenbach played on the Beasties' Pollywog Stew, but most importantly, Luscious Jackson came from the same pop culture-soaked, carnival-esque New York underground scene where punkers and rappers ran in concentric club circles. Where the Beasties rooted themselves firmly in hip-hop, Luscious Jackson used its rhythms as a launching pad for a music that is elastic, casually expansive, darkly seductive, and perfectly realized on In Search of Manny. Although hip-hop beats underpin all seven songs on this EP and leaders Jill Cunniff and Gabby Glaser rap as often as they sing, it's difficult to call this rap, since the songs follow pop form, the samples are for texture and color, not groove, and the aesthetic is slacker bohemia. In short, it's a record that only could have happened in 1992, just as Gen-X alt-rock culture hit its stride but before it reached the mainstream. Not long after this, Luscious Jackson would gel into a full-fledged band and its music would become sunnier, but here, it was still primarily the product of Cunniff and Glaser, with the two working with limited means -- drum machines, acoustic guitars, primitive samples -- to create a work of vast imagination. It may come from a very specific time and place -- it evokes its era more than it transcends it -- and it doesn't court listeners (something they would immediately do with Natural Ingredients), but the music pulsates with a sense of discovery, as the duo carves out its own niche in underground hipster culture. Years later, it retains its alluring vibe and stands as one of the unheralded gems of the alt-rock explosion of the early '90s.

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