Upon first listening to the latest song from Philadelphia-based Manwomanchild, “Return to Ithaca” (on West Cortez Records) one might have the initial impression of a pleasant but instantly fleeting lighthearted ’60s ditty. That is, until the storyline floats to the top, which seems to be about the gentrification of Cambridge, watching as a wrecking ball comes down on a childhood home. The charm of this poppy and at times psychedelic ’60s sound, bringing to mind bands like The Byrds and The Zombies, is thrown off-kilter with the deceptively cheery-sounding lyrics that are anything but. Yes, that’s right, a Pennsylvania band lamenting about today’s Cambridge, Massachusetts in a song called “Return to Ithaca.” I’m not quite sure about this either.

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Child drives this band’s creative output, which at this point, consists of an EP, debut album and several singles. Sometimes, as on “The Telepath Returns,” the vibe is more psychedelic like early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett. The lyrical sophistication, sharp wit and unexpected little touches of cynicism remain intact.

Happily, the more I listen, the more there is, and nothing is as cheery as it first seems. Even in “Lover’s Anthem” from the debut album, there’s the line “I must confess, I have been dreaming / All of this time I have been scheming.” It’s edgy and mildly disturbing, so feel free to dive right in!

The band formed in Rhode Island in 2008, moved to Chicago and released their debut EP that was recorded in Pawtucket at Machines with Magnets. The line up through the debut album release in 2011 was Child on vocals, guitars and synthesizers, Craig Gifford on bass and Mason Neely on drums. They made another move in 2013 to Philadelphia, releasing several curious and quirky singles over the past few years. Explore and support!

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