Man Man have mellowed nicely with age, maturing here, rounding off the harsh edges there. This is not to say that the Philadelphia carnival-skronk collective has gotten boring. But where a earlier incarnation of the band would’ve found lead singer Honus Honus chant-screaming “mustache, mustache, mustache, mustache!” the Man Man of 2013 finds him lamenting, as he does charmingly on “Pyramids,” “I can’t hit the notes I used to.”
No worries, though. This kinder, gentler Man Man — which, all things considered, will shock no fans of the group — hits plenty of excellent notes throughout On Oni Pond. “Pink Wonton” is an organ-and-horns rollicker; “Head On” a gorgeous ode to love (“Hold on to your heart!” Honus proclaims in the chorus. “Never let nobody drag it under.”); “Deep Cover” is a plaintive, ukulele-led lullaby. The chaos, when it rears its head as it does briefly during a noisy bridge on “Born Tight,” is reined in, subdued.
To hear ANTI- tell it, drummer Pow Pow figured prominently in the writing of this album. The former Need New Body percussionist has been Man Manning the kit almost since the beginning, and his increased profile as a songwriter is natural and non-disruptive here. “If you won’t reinvent yourself, you can’t circumvent yourself,” goes the chorus on “End Boss.” Thankfully, Man Man doesn’t take its own advice.