4S'd — Man or Muffin
(HOBART 004, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-01-10
In the aftermath of The Muffins’ demise as a band, this group stands as a clear successor, with this album growing out of tunes that were originally planned for The Muffins as far back as 2008. But that was not to be, as the members had dispersed around the country. Luckily for us, former Muffins Tom Scott, Paul Sears, and Billy Swann worked with Mark Stanley to make the four S’s of the name and complete the music, presenting it to us as Man or Muffin (which is printed without a question mark — this may or may not be of significance). Most of the instrumental passages are quite similar to what we’re used to from Scott, Sears, and Swann, with clever riffs, lots of great sax work, and unpredictable arrangements. The tunes lean a bit more to the RIO side than Mother Tongue did, but not outside what you might expect. With the second track, we hear something unexpected: singing. With lyrics. The oddly treated voice comes in towards the end of “Aftermath” and establishes another side to the group. Vocals show up again on “Another Lost Tomorrow,” and here they are more central to the composition, and include backing parts as well, from various female members of the Scott family. “2319” is a kind of synthetic big band tune, with an electronic swing beat and parts (all real, with some treated in ways that sound synthesized) playing the roles of the trombone, trumpet, and sax sections. While Man or Muffin may be somewhat different than a pure Muffins project, I suspect that anyone who likes The Muffins would get into it as well. This is fun music, tricky but not overly serious, full of imaginative twists and turns, expanding on a legacy that stretches back to the 70s.
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