Though I know very little about the band itself, the imagery Man Called Noon uses in their name is very interesting to me. That it comes off sounding something like a reference to character in a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western almost makes sense as the band’s music has the defiant air of rebellion about it that I like while retaining a coolness which is sure to draw people to their music. I am guessing the title may refer to the picture on the CD of a down and out man playing guitar in an alley, While it seems to have little to do with the music, there are undercurrents in every song regarding the struggles of the everyman to succeed in life, in love and to find happiness while still retaining a healthy self-image and not succumbing to the temptations and problems life throws at you. As someone like Bruce Springsteen sings of the life of the everyman so do the musicians behind Man Called Noon, albeit in their own way. Led by Tony Giamichael (lead vocals, guitar) and Brian Sonnek, (lead guitar, background vocals) the band boasts a solid one-man rhythm section in producer/engineer Mike Burns (drums/bass). The trio is bolstered by Katie Dingle who adds some atmospheric cello to a couple of tracks.
The first song Burn and Grow is a great pop-rocker in the vein of a slightly more polished Replacements or a scuffed-up Fountains of Wayne. Sonnek and Giamichael manage to get some great bristling guitar sounds and producer Burns is able to conjure really just a great sound overall with Giamichael’s vocals sounding just the right amount of rough. It is a very radio-friendly sound and although the production is a tad ragged, it fits with the working-class rock motif the band seems to be cultivating. Not to mention it has a wonderfully catchy singalong chorus too. This song is above-average power pop with some decent guitar crunch and is just a great opening song for the album. The next song Dance Off has a similar start and sound, all guitar crunch and pounding drums. The song is a little moodier and a little less catchy, but it still has a decent hook to it. Sonnek has a great solo on this one, less rowdy than the first song, but still with a great grip to it. The third song Living My Obsession is another crunchy rocker in a Replacements mode, with a maximum of rock and roll heart and a minimum of bluster, much to the band’s credit. Lyrics so far on the album aren’t that impressive, but not horrible by any means. They are simple enough so that once you learn them you can concentrate on playing air guitar during all the riffs and crunchy chords, but are not obtrusive or bad enough to ruin enjoyment of the song. The drumming by Burns is the same: simple and effective. The following song Saturday opens with what sounds like the riff from the middle of Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine only twisted a little. The vocals come in and Giamichael sounds a little tired on this one, and trying to hit a higher note on the end of eaxh phrase that his voice really isn’t able to hit correctly. Guitar work is again very good – just the right amount of skill and just enough Neil Young-style noise. Burns is again pounding away mercilessly, showing himself to be the glue holding the band together. In a little change-up, furious acoustic guitar strumming begins the next song, Dying For My Passion, which seems to be the band’s take on folk music. Other than some mournful harmonica work, the rest of the band never shows. The band comes back on the song Cotton, and comes back seemingly seeking vengeance. The song starts very loud and rowdy though it quiets down on the first verse a little where it’s all about the vocals and rhythm guitar. The next verse kicks in and the lead guitar and drums come in looking for blood. And, no, you may be wondering by now if the band plays metal. Not quite -just extremely hard rock like a Southern post-Nirvana AC/DC. Broken Man is next and starts out with some acoustic strumming in a country style close to what I’d imagine a post-punk Jimmie Rodgers would sound like today. One of my favorite songs on the CD, The Lonesome Gods, is next and features Katie Dingle’s cello lines echoing the lead guitar lines for a great effect. A very ambitiously arranged track compared to the others here, which are more straight-up rockers where this song balances rock with a bit of a baroque touch as well. Some Thin Lizzy-like dual guitar lines at the end of the song add yet another dimension. The last song is called Another Ghost and has a My Morning Jacket-type feel to the vocals. Not only does it start off with some great acoustic strumming that reminds one of the Stones’ Street Fighting Man but it finishes up the album with a powerful flurry just like that classic.
Man called Noon have created a very impressive CD here and one that should garner them quite a bit of attention. While not perfect by any means (who is?), the band has managed to take their strong points and use them to disarm and disguise their weaknesses almost completely. The lyrics may be simplistic and sometimes banal, but thanks to some catchy choruses, who cares? The same guitar tone is featured in many of the songs, but so what? It’s crunchy as hell, very up-to-date sonically and the melodies make you forget about the sameness very quickly as you’re going to be too busy playing air guitar to notice. Hey, if you’re going to pick a favorite guitar sound to use on your album, it’s at least a savvy move to pick a good one, which Man Called Noon certainly has. This is definitely a band to watch and if they keep improving, five or so years down the line I can see this band headlining some big shows.