Manishevitz are a bunch of introverts trying their hardest to make extroverted music (and failing). City Life is the third Manishevitz album, but it is truly the first product of the band Manishevitz. The first two albums, Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down (1999) and Rollover (2000), were largely composed by Adam Busch and Via Nuon. But after extensive touring in support of Rollover, a new larger band nucleus evolved to also now include cohorts Joe Adamik, Ryan Hembrey, Nate Lepine and Fred Lonberg-Holm. Vocalist Adam Busch has foregone his oft-indiscernible mumbling-like singing for a more articulated and attitude-fueled vocal performance. His delivery resembles that of Bryan Ferry’s 70’s work, while the rest of Manishevitz play foil to his Ferry. Most immediately noticeable are Nuon’s historical leads, Adamik’s rock steady drumming, and Lepine’s snotty sax riffs. City Life is about wonderment, estrangement, mania, exhaustion, solitude, and togetherness. Manishevitz bounces these themes back and forth as the songs thoughtfully bleed into each other (check out the wall of sound climax of “Hate Ilene” as it is hard spliced into the groove-y rock charge of “Mary Ann”). Sleazing, sweating, grunting and moaning through each tune, Manishevitz have created something that will endure. Produced by Michael Krassner and engineered by Andy Bosnak, the album was tracked in Chicago at Clava and then mixed and over-dubbed in Los Angeles at Kingsize with long time friend of the band, Wil Hendricks.
Following the So-Cal pop earnestness of 2000's Rollover, Manishevitz has taken us by the hand with their Private Lines EP and into a Chicago improv club where band leader and principal songwriter Adam Busch tosses his umbrella in the spitoon and lets his hair down while the band gets drunk in the street. Raging on the title track, Manishevitz more closely resembles the incredible live act they've become over the past three years than they ever have on record. It's here where their collision of art pop and jazz rock is sewn. It's as if Lou Reed's 1976 Rock And Roll Heart tour band was still alive and kicking. When the horns blare through the din mid-way through the tune, it's a profound declaration of clarity for modern rock music. Also featured on the EP are two stellar covers: "Free Will" by Robert Wyatt and "2 HB" by Roxy Music.
When Manishevitz's debut record GRAMMAR BELL AND THE ALL FALL DOWN was released in 1999, the record was quickly branded by the press as an "underground treasure" that was "bleak and baleful." To them it possessed "a poker-faced Gothic sensibility flavored with sinister acidity." In contrast, Manishevitz's followup record ROLLOVER is a more upbeat affair, possessing the absorbing chemistry of Mr. Van Dyke Parks, Arthur Lee's Love, and (from a different continent altogether) Robert Wyatt. This is exactly as intended. When Adam Busch, the man behind the band, decided to move from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Chicago, he was also looking to find a new home for his masterful collection of spacious blues effigies. The result: the fractured folk lonesomeness evident on the first record has become wrapped in glistening sheaths of 1960s So-Cal pop enthusiasm.ROLLOVER was produced by Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble, Lofty Pillars and Simon Joyner) and arranged by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (Peter Brotzmann Tentent, John Zorn and Light Box Orchestra). In the recording of ROLLOVER, Manishevitz expanded to not only include Krassner and Lonberg-Holm, both of whom performed throughout the record, but also Via Nuon (Drunk and Bevel), Ryan Hembrey (Edith Frost and Pinetop Seven), Jason Adasiewicz (Central Falls) and Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5 and The Flying Luttenbachers). With the help of this superb collection of Chicago-area musicians, Adam Busch has put together a record backed by cascading percussive pellets and simmering, mellifluous horns that resound in mysterious cyclical rounds.
From the first cymbal crash on the first song of this debut record, you know instantly that you're dealing with something extraordinary. A songwriter has arrived, and he is much younger than he sounds. You must already know that songwriters are like mathematicians... they all peak in their 20s and early 30s. Then it is all downhill. We have so much to look forward to.Manishevitz is Adam Busch. And GRAMMAR BELL AND THE ALL FALL DOWN are confessional rock songs informed by old school rhythm and blues. It is obvious that the inestimable substance and the words that hold these songs together come from someone well beyond his years, in both lyrical ability and world-weariness. A glimpse of Busch's apparent trajectory was first seen in his previous work as part of the now defunct quartet called The Curious Digit. Whereas The Curious Digit were "adept impressionists" who, with their second record HESSIAN HILLS, created a few sweeping portraits of sonic, artistic and emotional paralysis, Busch, as Manishevitz, has created with GRAMMAR BELL... "a brittle folk document with quiet, understated power."