Live: The Manichean share their vision with a triumphant performance of their new album LOVERS
ALLEY THEATRE — 6/16/12: With three EPs (one of which features remixes of their epic single, “Lacerus”) under their collective belts, The Manichean boys — Cory Sinclair, Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, and their capable entourage of musicians — are not the young upstarts that I met three years ago (almost to the day, actually) at The Meridian.
Though they wowed me with that first performance, I’ve seen them grow and mature through gigs and tours and the EPs they’ve released, always taking steps forward to be original — nay visionary — and doing it all on their own, with no record label to limit them. They are Houston’s most unique band, and one of a handful of Houston bands that I recommend to friends in other cities.
The Manichean seem to relish the fact that most people have a visceral reaction to them. Some critics love them, while others roll their eyes at their brand of drama-rock and the emotions they wear like tattoos on their arms. But The Manichean won’t change who they are to please a potential fan-base. They don’t watch the polls. And that “we are who we are” attitude has endeared me to what they’ve been doing for the past three years.
It culminated with Saturday night’s performance of their upcoming album, LOVERS. It was a seamless (apart from a short intermission) performance of their new album. I have to admit, I’m not usually good with surprises. Oh, how I wish I’d had the album ahead of time so I could’ve familiarized myself with all of the ins and outs of the songs and their order. But the way the new songs they’ve been performing lately fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle has been a guarded secret up until Saturday. It was like The Manichean were trying to teach me to enjoy life’s little surprises! And enjoy, I did.
There were no pauses in their conceptual performance. The audience had to force their way in with applause. Cheering them on was the only respite we got from the high-wire marvel going on below. All the while, my brain was trying to make sense of the sensory overload. Just as their lyrics are obtuse, so was the dream-like, almost ceremonial and spiritual display they presented us.
There was Cory Sinclair, the protagonist of our dream. He wove his way in and around the theater as he united the audience as one body yearning for success for him and his ensemble in winning the affection of Asli Omar (of The Tontons), the beauty and object of Cory’s desire. What perfect casting, boys; most love songs are written about the Asli Omars of the world.
Condensed to its essence, it was the classic story of boy-meets-girl, told through the prism of a music video performed in front of a live audience. At times I felt like I was watching the MTV of old, and vague memories of the video for “Take On Me” by Aha came to mind. But it was the portrayal of pain and rejection that caught the majority of my imagination, taking me back 25 years when that kind of pain and rejection stung me for the first of many times.
Musically, and in the concepts of their songs, The Manichean seem to borrow from The Smiths — my favorite band of 25 years ago! — on their new album. It’s the sound of The Smiths through the lens of musicians who have listened to their share of At The Drive-In. But I must correct myself by admitting that labeling the music belies the emotions that The Manichean captured with their beautiful performance. It feels like they have given their entire selves over to this album, and they confidently and rightly defy any categorization a critic such as myself may thrust upon them.
In the end, there is no happily ever after, nor is it a tragedy for Cory and the other members of The Manichean. Though the live performance of the album was triumphant, just like life it leaves us with the anticipatory feeling of “what’s next?,” and thank God for that! What’s next for these musicians is a page-turning mystery. I, for one, can’t wait to read the next chapter. END
(Photos [l to r from top left]: Ash BigCash; Asli Omar & Cory Sinclair; Asli & Cory; Asli & Cory; Cory & Justice Tirapelli-Jamail; Cory & Justice; Cory & Tyagaraja; Cory; Cory; angry Cory; creepy Cory; Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail; Cory saying goodnight; Justice; Cory; Sean Spiller; Tyagaraja. All photos by Jason Smith.)