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Manhandler - EP

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Album Review

Jeez, at least Nice, Nice dialed it down occasionally. On Manhandler (Thick), Chicago's Cougars only have five songs with which to shave off tops of brains, so they've cycled their entire eight pieces up to ludicrous levels. One of Manhandler's many revelations is that "Vegas Makes Her F**k." The drums roil furiously, and the guitars are meatier than a double Italian sausage. And the singer — yelping and screeching in a tiger trap between Guy Picciotto and David Yow — does mention that he has a mask, imploring someone to put it on. However, it isn't made clear whether this is part of Las Vegas' curious effect on the titular character. Don't get any ideas about the salacious blues of "Phil's Collins" being some sort of ZZ Top/Cougars collabo — the song's barely a minute long. The classic rock gone wrong of "Dick Dater" is more apt, with a mind-bending lead guitar riff and the band's famous horn section adding color with an alternate melody. (Check rapid-fire tempo change made funky by a horn chart.) As if the skidding, careening "Cookietown" wasn't enough of a statement — "Good luck with your big pants!" — Manhandler finally collapses in a dripping, sweaty mess with a lurching untitled track that's as throaty and angry as anything in the Cougar catalog, but shot through with the hope of undeniable melody. It's a strong ending, revealing the craft that hides underneath the band's sonic carcasses of insanity.


Formed: 2000 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Chicago's Cougars formed in 2000 from remainders of local ska-ish heroes Hot Stove Jimmy. Eight dudes strong, their lineup included vocalist Matt Irie, keyboardist Sam Ambrosini, and guitarists Brett Meingasner and John Mclurg; a rhythm section of Bryan Bienias (bass) and Brian Wnukowski (drums, ex-Big'n); and horn players Mark Beening (trumpet) and Jeff Vidmont (sax). A huge sound was necessary to validate so many mouths to feed on tour, so Cougars opted for a trashy, slutty stumble of Jesus Lizard...
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Manhandler - EP, Cougars
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