Man Is Slapped - Socially Inept
Owain Paciuszko 12/09/2010
Wonderfully inventive cover art raises the hopes for the first sounds to emanate from York based Man Is Slapped, alas it begins with a dull electro plod and restrained, soggy vocals. It's quite crushingly disappointing, but fortunately things take a turn for the better as the track - Student Action - verges off into a territory close to Robert Smith doing electronica and continues to improve in leaps and bounds from there, the finale a particularly rampant and dazzling flurry of varying bleeps, squeaks and wonderment. The vocal wavers from limp to emotive on this opening track, with everything on the record being provided by one man, Richard Berks, and his ability as a musician is really impressive, but he's not always adept at getting every element to play off of one another perfectly.
Similarly the David Byrne-like vocals married to glitchy beats on Travel Like A Spy occasionally works, with layers of vocals forming a nice background. There's plenty of good ideas tucked up here, but what's pushed front and centre often distracts from Man Is Slapped's considerable musical talents; ...exgirlfriend for example has a brilliant Casio led beat which ascends so superbly into a glorious electric guitar explosion, but the half-rapped vocal needs to loosen up, here feeling like a well played but unnecessary instrument. It's strange because on this track I'm absolutely crazy about the music, it's brilliant, but the lyrics and vocal performance get in the way.
His nasal delivery is apt at the beginning of Just Want To Party lending the right air of despondency and poignancy to lyrics such as; 'It's not that I don't like you, I just like you too much.' As it builds towards a climax though it's not quite the optimistic send off it seems to hope to be, and after the dazzling production on ...exgirlfriend falls even flatter, with the gradual layering of vocals creating more of a dull murmur than a buoyant chorus.
I'm not saying that he's the wrong vocalist for this music, there are hints across the record that his voice is capable of doing the right thing, it's just a case of knowing when to be glum and knowing when to let loose. This is a frustrating record as a result, with gorgeous arrangments and production, but a barrier in the way to total enjoyment.