What do I think of Art in Manila? (Plus a CD review by Tuc Krueger)

If (or more likely when) I am eventually asked that question, my mind will flit through images of the hulking building that is called the Cultural Center of the Philippines, plein artists painting bay sunsets, streetlights of proton pink and neutron blue, looking inevitably like gigantic lollipops along Roxas Blvd., looming clouds of diesel engine fumes and galleries of living room art in Malate.

How then, do I feel about Art in Manila? It’s a band that Orenda Fink — formerly of Azure Ray, dabbler of Haitian voodoo — formed in Omaha with members of McCarthy Trenching, Bright Eyes and The Good Life and recorded by Joel Petersen from the Faint.

Of course, they’re signed to Saddle Creek.

I am iffy about Westerners co-opting for themselves names of cities they’ve never stepped foot in (such as members of Canadians Tokyo Police Club, who confirmed this when I talked to them early this year).

And maybe I am being presumptuous; there is nothing wrong with liking certain syllables of names, how they go together, how phrases roll off the tongue. How exotic to name a band for a city thinking it is a blank slate. (Wherein with Manila in my band name I would at live shows place vats of gutter water onstage, wear sampaguita garlands and sell cigarettes by the stick.)

After more research (i.e., read the band’s blogs on Myspace) I find that the band previously called itself Art Bell.

Now I get it — it’s Art Bell in Manila. Years ago, when the internet was still a gigantic unknoWWWn and not teh internets it is now, much hoopla was made over a reported broadcast Art Bell made about the Philippines being “a disgusting and filthy place.”

In truth all it was, was that 60-year-old Art Bell had a love affair over teh internets with a 20-something Filipino woman.

And maybe the truth just is that it’s a quirky story that held the band’s imagination for a while and then used by the time they had to go onstage and play.

At least the music is okay. At first listen, it’s like a less schmaltzy Paula Cole. Then it grows and grows and grows on you til you can’t stop it from invading your iPod. Plus, there is that awesome Les Savy Fav cover (“The Sweat Descends”). So at least it’s not Metro Manila Aide from Great Britain.

Here is a Post-it CD review by MKE designer Tuc Krueger.

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