Man On Man (Loverband, USA)
Man On Man (Loverband, USA)
MAN ON MAN, Provincetown (Polyvinyl, 2023)
You remember your pandemic project, dont you? Maybe it was baking bread, cultivating a garden, or
finally committing to Proust? But for Roddy Bottum and Joey Holmanback then, a new couple of
longtime musicians, en route from New York City to California to care for Roddys ailing motherit was
writing songs, meant only to entertain themselves in those suddenly idle days. Joey, after all, had his
guitar in the car; during the road trip west, they ordered a microphone, waiting for them in California
where theyd live and work from a cozy beachside A-frame. They got to work but, really, to play, shaping
a dynamic string of new-love songs about tender infatuation, the ache of all-consuming lust, and the
excitement of a full future, together. Its so fun, they cooed in content unison, to be gay, their own
birds-and-bees ode to joy. Those songs stuck around, accreting not only into an album but into the band
MAN ON MAN, lauded by Rolling Stone and loved for music videos that documented the real romance
of two fully grown gay men. That pandemic project? Suddenly, a little hit.
MAN ON MANs triumphant and pop-powered return, Provincetown is the result of an accidental band
moving with sudden intention and two once-new partners growing into a deeper relationship. Written
largely in that tip-of-the-Cape haven that gives the record its name, Provincetown cavorts even as it poses
complicated questions about what it means to be queer, alive, and in love in the first quarter of this
anxious American century. There are peppy hookup-app blues, queer history lessons set to contagious
electroclash, unfettered celebrations of sex and summertime funglitter bombs all, set off to light up
these often-dark times. Windows down, let em see/Weve got nothing to hide, they sing during the
enormous and insistent I Feel Good, boldly answering the titles refrain with I feel great/In these
United States. It is, like all of Provincetown, a massive rainbow flag in the groundnot a statement of
existence so much as a proclamation of defiant thriving. Cum, if you will, and take it.
If MAN ON MANs self-titled debut represented the start of their relationship, Provincetownfinished
just as they neared the four-year markrepresents its steady maturation and the gifts therein. They now
know what about the other makes them tick better. For Bottum, a veteran of big-time rock bands, Holman
represented the first time he felt fully embraced by a collaborator, that he didnt have to scream for his
ideas to be heard. (And its not, mind you, because they share the same tastes. Holman loves Silverchair.
Bottum is a Sparks superfan.) For Holman, meanwhile, its Bottums ability to reduce thorny ideas,
whether lyrically or musically or emotionally, into more digestible notions.
That ability is key to Provincetown, which does not shy away from difficulty but delivers it always with
pizazz and efficiency. Take opener Take It From Me, a fluorescent disco-grunge anthem about
decadesno, centuries!of exploitation of queer culture, from dudes who talk about their wives only
after sex with a man to rising rents that push LGBTQ people out of spaces they helped make vital. Its a
doctoral thesis condensed into three minutes, then loaded with a defiant credo: Youll never take it from
me. And then theres Piggy, a radiant rock strummer about the internalized self-hatred of someone too
scared of being queer to show their face on an app, only their torso. You gotta first love you, if you
wanna fuck me, they sing in a hook that would have been all over rock radio in an alternate and inclusive
version of the 90s. (By the way, speaking of guitars and the 90s, yes, thats J Mascis you hear roaring on
closer Hush.) Those same sentiments curdle in Gloryhole, a monstrous shoegaze jam about the
vexing contrast between being gay online and in real life, or between being ardent digital activists and
meatspace meatheads. The good times and the good fight, Holman seems to say, must commingle.
There are, of course pure and unadulterated thrills here, songs that echo that rush-of-love esprit of MAN
ON MANs debut. In fact, while touring those early songs, especially while opening for the dudely
crowds of Dinosaur Jr., they learned how much fun they could have leaning into their livewire tendencies,
a realization that shaped this records explosive sense of wonder. Named for Provincetowns famous
weekly variety show, Showgirls testifies to the pleasures of learning one anothers love-and-lust
languages. Sexy, seductive, and dangerous, its a rock song about exploring and expanding each other.
Dont say maybe/when you take me, Holman sings. Turn an amateur/into a connoisseur. You want in
on these lessons. All this wisdom funnels into the wonderful Kids, a soft, swaying dance tune about
recognizing youre no longer, well, a kid on the cutting edge of queer culture. But MAN ON MAN
respects the advances the new generation will make and the fun they will have; theyre here to watch
them party and change the world.
In their music videos, Bottum and Holman have made out under a deluge of honey, kissed while fully
clothed in a shower stall, and deep throated a banana. On the cover of Provincetown, they are, again,
barrel-chested and bare-chested, offering a rejoinder to the way we often see gay men in love. This is all
playful and fun, of course, worth a wink and a chuckle. But MAN ON MAN is not a joke band, doing it
just for laughs. This happy-sounding music explores serious and increasingly urgent topics in American
life. Cry lots, laugh more, they sing on Feelings, a bit of cultural criticism that doubles as a thesis for
their unabashed honesty. Get comfortable with your feelings. Provincetown is not only the sound of
MAN ON MAN stepping fully into their shared lives and shared band, but also into their role as two
singing seers of a current American concernthe ability to exist as yourself, to love who you love how
you love them, with self-respect and dignity intact. And, of course, to have fun doing it.