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The best kept secret in music



Manifold: A Short Appreciation
By Fred Mills

Damn. A lot can change in just two short years,
particularly when you’re calculating careers,
implosions, half-lives and the like in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Full disclosure: I lived in Tucson from 1992-2001, so I’m somewhat predisposed to liking combos from that burg. That said, the notion of so-called “desert rock” holding ultimate sway over the Old Pueblo was already receding into local lore at least midway through my tenure – and anyway, there’s always been a wealth of genres bubbling under in Tucson, just like any city. It’s just that certain time periods tend to shine the spotlight on certain
bands and/or styles, and that’s the image that sticks in people’s minds long after the fact.

With Manifold and the promise this gifted young band holds out, it’s distinctly possible that an entirely new wave of Tucson tuneage is about to break. Time (and perhaps media..) will only tell. But for now, based on the evidence presented on Departures and Arrivals, and with the added boost of being able to assess the music from a considerable distance (as opposed to being integrated upon the “scene” and being unduly prone to non-objectivity), I’d have to say that
Manifold’s combined underground appeal and commercial potential makes the band a Serious Contender.

On the surface, one might detect some of the more
obvious touchstones of the past decade or so: the
atmospheric sway of The Cure, the hard-edged pummel of Helmet, the melodic loopiness of Radiohead even the dynamic upheavals of U2. Peer a bit closer, however; it’s worth the effort, and the sonic impressions will begin to multiply exponentially. Opening track “Room22,” for example, offers a tingly marriage between classic shoegaze and vintage psychedelia, all drone ‘n’ thrum and leavened by urgent, yearning vocals. The staccato-riffed “Two Eyes” is angular and edgy, unsettling in a “something lurks around the corner” sense. And “Argument”’s anthemism is neither forced nor explosive-for-explosiveness’-sake; the sense of uplift one takes away from the tune is genuine – like a glory days-era Echo & The Bunnymen song. Oh, and kids, there’s a unlisted track at the end, a brief bit of melodic ambiance to salve the battered neurons one accumulates after the Perfect Circle-like assault of track nine, “Sunder.”

With Manifold steadily increasing its touring reach this fall and winter, it’s inevitable that the group’s national profile will continue to be elevated. And if the spotlight in turn swings in the direction of Tucson…. well, like I said, only time will tell. Sure would make me happy, though.
--Fred Mills
September 2003, Asheville NC
- Fred Mills


LOUSY LUCK: The members of Tucson's Manifold have some valuable advice for bands planning a tour: Don't start it on Friday the 13th.
Unfortunately, they learned this lesson the hard way, with their recent tour kicking off on Friday, June 13, in Albuquerque. Barely.

The trouble started on that fateful day when they ran out of gas about 20 miles outside of Albuquerque proper and spent a few hours on the side of the interstate before making it to Burt's Tiki Lounge minutes before they were scheduled to perform. Which they did.

Four days and four shows later, their van was broken into in New Orleans. Luckily, the trailer carrying their equipment was spared, but the band was robbed of a CD player and about 40 CDs. OK, a tour is bound to bring a couple of unexpected roadblocks, right? Nothing else could go wrong, right?

Wrong. The very next day the van's catalytic converter went out. Luckily, they had family in Mount Pleasant, Texas, where it was fixed. After scrambling to get to the next town, they arrived only to find the club had been double-booked. From there, the voyage continued virtually uninterrupted. Oh sure, there were those two tires that had to be replaced in Denver, but other than that, no more real trauma to speak of. Yeesh. Next time, guys, pick a safer date, like maybe the Ides of March.

Aside from the headaches, the boys report the tour was mostly successful, with a few bum dates here and there--pretty much the standard for any touring band at their level. But they also seem glad to be home, and you can bet they'll be even gladder on Friday, when they'll celebrate the release of the oh-so-appropriately titled Departures and Arrivals, their brand-new full-length album on Stunning Tonto Records.

Every Manifold show I've seen has been better than the previous one, and continuing with that trend, Departures and Arrivals is unquestionably better than the band's debut EP, released last year, also on Stunning Tonto. The recording is better, the packaging is better, and best of all, the songs are largely better.

The band mines a similar musical terrain as the late Hum, with dense guitars and subdued vocal melodies that take a couple listens to really burrow their way into your cranium. The sound is so big that songs often seem to be moving at a slower pace than they actually are, and are often dosed with little sonic flourishes that add even more texture. Album opener "Room22" is a perfect example. Starting with a single distorted guitar, another guitar is soon layered on top of it before the vocals kick in. Then the drums and bass simultaneously enter the mix, and as soon as it's all there, in that instant, the song finally, completely reveals itself. A jagged guitar lead on the chorus and a tinkling piano add those extra flourishes, and the whole is a dynamic rock song that only gets more interesting each time you hear it.

The age-old trick of instruments entering and dropping out of a song is used over and over again, along with a song switching things up by hitting a tempo/riff change or hitting the distortion pedals, but they're used to such great effect that it never tires over the course of the album. The result is a densely moody but expansive set of songs that'll truly grow on you.
- Stephen Siegel



When: Sat., Aug. 17, 10 p.m.

Where: Cooler Lounge (with the Fuckers, Half-Assed, 4am Fatality and the Rodeo Boys

Admission: free (donation encouraged)

Info: 646-3009

Despite the glamorously portrayed life of the rock star, the truth is often much more mundane and disappointing. Sure, there's enough drugs and alcohol to go around, and the women usually seem a little too eager, but there's a side to the musician's life so boring and tedious it would make Kenny Guinn snore.

Yes, I'm talking of thankless self-promotion, loading equipment you'd swear was lined with lead and trying your hardest not to screw the drummer's girlfriend. Most of the time it's an exercise in patience spent in shitty bars, an oven of a van and being around a few other guys you grow to love and hate. Taking time off from the day-job grind to rock the socks off Las Vegas is Arizona-based rock act Manifold. I recently talked with guitarist Tom Beach about playing one of Sin City's best dive bars and about who gets laid the most in the band, in between waxing highbrow philosophy and discussing world politics.

"What we sound like is a little bit of Tool mixed in with Radiohead and the Cure," Beach explains. "It's heavy-melodic with some ambient style mixed in." Any band attempting to carve out their own niche in the musical cesspool of vapid prefabricated pop and shoddy breast implants must certainly face a challenge getting ahead, and the members of Manifold - singer Todd Alexander, bassist Joe Stover and drummer Michael McLaughlin and Beach - are no exception.

"For us, it's all about working hard, having a good work ethic and being honest to yourself," he says. "We get up there and play our asses off and we all want to quit our jobs and make this our job, because at this point, this is what we really want to do."

Now all that work may be fine and dandy for tight-assed classical musicians, but do the boys in Manifold ever cut a swath of hedonism that would make Steven Tyler blush? "We like to drink beer, but we prefer to get the music done first," Beach elaborates soberly. "We're not living the full-on rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and we're not self-sufficient off the music yet, so we can't, really."

Reluctantly steering the conversation back towards a more musical focus, I query the guitarist about his listening habits. "Right now, I'm listening to the last Fugazi record, this band Houston and Tom Waits' recent records," he replies. "As for band faves, we like Tom Waits, Helmet, the Tragically Hip, Radiohead and the Cure."

They may wear the heart-on-the-sleeve, honest and hard-working band image, but what exactly are Manifold's intentions towards our chaste and unsullied city? "We're going to make a complete weekend of it and hopefully have a good time."

As for future goals, Manifold has all the aspirations of any band looking to break into the mainstream and hang with heroin-chic models. "We're hoping that we can be self-sufficient, develop some interest, get management and get out on the road and tour heavily," he says. "We're actually releasing an EP in the next couple of months, and we have another one in the works."

OK, so I couldn't dig up any dirt on these guys, but they're obviously serious enough about their craft to rebuff a spaz of a journalist and get to the point. The band's sound definitely works for them and is catchy and intelligent, something hard to come by sifting through the swill of modern music. For those attending the Cooler Lounge show, be sure to listen with your ears and brain.

- Aaron Archer


EP (2002) - 6 Songs

Departures and Arrivals (2003) - Stunning Tonto Records -
In September of 2003 they struck a radio deal with Notorious Radio Promotions out of NYC. This got manifold commercial radio airplay on around 80 stations in the USA on the big "rock/alt" stations in markets. The campaign lasted 10 weeks and resulted in a charting on the speciatly charts. They were being played on the new music/specialty shows on each radio station. Currently they are also in rotation on radio stations in London, Sheffield, Oxford and elsewhere in the UK.

Look for a new EP coming in early 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


A considerable number of people say manifold sounds reminiscent to a cross between shiner, engine down, sunny day real estate, hum and the cure. manifold are a guitar driven band with layered complexities, yet they maintain a melodic vibe, and they beat the shit out of their stuff during live shows, to their own dismay. They aren't your typical "glitz and glamour" rock band - they carry the work ethic typical of some well known midwestern bands, and they don't talk themselves up - on their website, the bio simply says: "rock band" - a modest declaration indeed, as they are anything but a typical rock band.

Some influences range from Tom Waits to the Rolling Stones, Modest Mouse, Arab Strap, Queens of the Stoneage, Kyuss, Nebula, Helmet. You'll notice it's from one extreme to the other - their music reflects this.

One thing that sets them apart from most bands at their level is that they consistently tour regionally and nationally yet are almost totally DIY. Their combined underground appeal and commercial potential make them a serious contender for labels. See them or listen to them and you'll know why they carry a big buzz with them wherever they go (and it's not just from the beer they drank).

They have played shows and toured with indie greats like Pretty Girls Make Graves, Interpol, Dead Meadow, Trail of Dead, Houston, Shiner, John Vanderslice, Pinback, Engine Down, Appleseed Cast, Vendetta Red, the Constantines and many more. They play out of their hometown more than they play in it. They have played over 130 shows in their 2 years of existence. See's past shows section for specific dates.