Jack Grisham may have turned totally poppy with his new band The Manic Low and new album ‘Songs for an Up Day’, but you can’t totally remove the punk from the T.S.O.L. frontman: his delivery was still jolty and casual and his restless moves didn’t facilitate the photographers’ tasks. During the entire set, he was constantly striding the stage from right to left and from left to right, and I didn’t even find a second when he was standing still.
Wearing a baggy grey-beige suit, a red bandana around his neck, sky-blue shoelaces, and his usual thick glasses, he was moving his imposing figure with ample arm moves, looking like a vacationer happy in his boat shoes, pulling his tongue at any occasion, feeling relaxed and visibly animated to be there. He was effectively smiling a lot during the whole set, and especially talking a great deal between songs, making the crowd laugh with dirty jokes of toilet-adult-reading about transvestites with whip. Not too many people couldn’t afford to break the rhythm of a show with long talkative interludes like the ones he did, but thanks to his strong personality and affable attitude it was working all right. ‘What do you prefer Cindy Crawford with a penis or Charles Bronson with a vagina?’ yes it was that kind of thing, as he was showing a little bit of his demoniac side, which was always piercing behind the shimmering pop songs… After all, I remember him presenting his book ‘An American Demon: A Memoir’ at Vacation Vinyl,… a self-explicatory title.
The tone of the night was light and friendly, as many T.S.O.L. fans (seeing the t-shirts) and Grisham’s friends (after talking to a few people) had filled the Constellation Room inside the Observatory in Santa Ana, where the first concert of the OC Weekly sponsored series ‘Plugged Into Local’ was happening on Wednesday night.
Grisham, who was singing like he had suddenly become a crooner in Las Vegas, was making nervous and fast moves, and couldn’t believe how calm and quiet people were. He joked about uncomfortable he was, seeing people being so nice in front of him, as he was rather used to see people beating the hell of each other. But the poppy music was certainly not an invitation for a brawl or some wild moshing, I even thought about the Kinks when they played ‘Some Girls Own Me’,… the breezy-catchy chorus was so 60s! And the British band crossed my mind again during the more dynamic ‘Can We Go’, but weren’t the Kinks the early progenitors of punk? So it totally made sense once again.
‘So when the delivery is sweet and happy it becomes acceptable, but beware of the lyrics!’ I paraphrase because he was talking too fast and too much for me to take notes, but that was the idea, as he was warning us about his saccharine-coated new creations, and trying to darken the girlie look of his album cover, which shows a stylish-blond-flashy-lipstick girl wearing a red coat and black gloves.
‘We never thought about playing it live’ he also added later on, ‘But It's working nice, thank you!’ acquiescing it from someone in the audience, and the ‘we’ stood for keyboardist/producer Paul Roessler and guitarist Rob Milucky who were playing with him.
The line ‘We go up/we go down’ in the more aggressively sounding song, ‘Let Me Come Up’, could summarize the recipe behind the whole project: simple and catchy melodies, a little dark humor and a sort of paradoxical approach with a depressing ‘Low’ in the moniker and an optimistic ‘Up’ in the album title.
You can listen to their debut album ‘Songs For An Up Day’, which was released on Moonlight Graham Records last June.
Some Girls Own Me
The Love Letter
Good Girls Come Home
Can we Go
Let Me Come Up