Dan Mangan – More or Less
- Brian Donaldson
- 6 November 2018
A retreat into the personal worries of fatherhood and ageism in the music industry
'There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall', proclaimed literary critic Cyril Connolly back in the days when bulky baby-transporting receptacles were more of a thing. There are plenty who will throw that accusation at Dan Mangan whose fifth album, More or Less, is less about previous concerns such as civil unrest in Guatemala and his partying life, and more about keeping a small human alive and offsetting the doubt and paranoia of raising a child in a crazily edge-of-its seat world. Being a daddy has got deep into Mangan's veins and there was never any doubt that this would be the subject of his next collection of songs.
After an initially jagged beginning where the echoey, distant Beta Band-like and Bon Iver-esque vocal stylings and discordant passages suggest the difficulties of starting each day with a small child to take care of (or, as he puts it in opening track 'Lynchpin', 'every morning is a resurrection').
While tracks with names such as 'Lay Low', 'Just Fear', and 'Never Quiet' suggest a man who's not exactly taking parenthood in his stride, he's perhaps just a realist, recognising in 'Peaks & Valleys' that there's 'the good, the bad, the in-between'. Matters appear to get cheerier on the musical surface in the album's middle section with a trio run of 'Cold in the Summer', 'Troubled Mind' and 'Fool for Waiting'.
But listen closer and the first two signify Mangan's worries about being left behind in an ever-evolving and youth-biased music industry, while the anthemic last one (put your lighters and mobiles down, and wave them dummies in the air) seems to revolve around finding a partner who accepts all your foibles. It's perhaps the most upbeat message on an album that signals an artist unsure of his bearings in an increasingly manufactured musical landscape.
Out now. (City Slang)