Monday, March 4, 2013


1994 (Matador)


"Barbara Manning is the noise-lovers pop singer. Of that, everyone is certain. We could tell you more about her formative years raised in a junkyard, her long-term relationship with the San Francisco music scene, and her unabashed love of baseball, but I can't find the press kit. Besides, this isn't about Barbara Manning (yeah, right) but the San Francisco Seals, her new band...
So what do you need to know? The album, Nowhere, is on Matador. It's loaded with covers and ever-so-tuneful B.Manning originals . . . bouncy pop numbers cut up with scratchy needles, sampled noise and fragments." - Franz Kunst and Carrie McLaren

"barbara manning has such a gorgeous voice -- cool as a popsicle, transparent as a whisper of chiffon -- that her general creepiness might throw you for a loop...She has a way of adding weight and heft to the stark beauty of her voice by giving us multiple layers of meaning to swim through. And unlike gloomsters like Nick Cave, Manning doesn't distance herself from the misery of the characters in her songs -- she collapses that distance, moving right in like a zoom lens to show us what makes these people tick." - Stephanie Zacharek

"I always had a hell of time trying to peg Barbara Manning until I realized that was probably the reason I liked her so much. She's thought of as 'alternative' (whatever that means) though she sounds like a sweet-voiced folkie who plays a dizzying range of rock covers and then writes even better songs on her own. I guess it was out of laziness that she was lumped with the 'grrl' movement (Courtney, Liz Phair, L7) but she's too smart and thoughtful to fall into categories that easy. A baseball fan who sings of sour relationships and toasts her favorite bands through covers and name checks, she didn't make it easy to say what she was. Manning is definitely an original." - Jason Gross

"In the early nineties, World of Pooh members Barbara Manning, Melanie Clarin, and Kim Osterwald transformed into the San Francisco Seals. Lead vocalist Manning wrote the band's original songs; Clarin handled the drumming duties and also sang and played accordion, as well as other instruments, while Osterwald played cello. The music of SF Seals was largely pop-oriented, drawing inspiration from the '60s Bay Area scene and often spiced with samples and strange noises -- although as the band grew instrumentally, those aspects became less prominent in their live work. Manning was particularly fond of covering other artists -- often obscure tunes -- both on record and in the Seals' live shows.

After recording a series of seven-inch singles with Margaret Murray, formerly of U.S. Saucer, on bass, SF Seals toured with bassist Chris Milner of the Molecules and drummer Jay Page. Guitarist Brently Pusser of Nerd Rock Pioneers and 3 Day Stubble joined the band for the recording of Nowhere, their first LP, released in 1994 on the Matador label. Murray and Clarin also played on the album. The band's second album, Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows, was released the next year, and they toured in support of the release, after which they disbanded." - Nick Kemper

"I've gotten lots of bad reviews of this record. But, to tell you the truth, I just don't care. The record was completely a selfish thing; I wasn't even thinking of how to please my sister or my mom. I was completely pleasing myself. Every single second on that record I know really well. We'd been collecting sounds for months. I knew I wanted to have a nice, long improv piece. Maybe certain things were calculated because I knew I wanted to do them. But they were only for myself. I guess I shouldn't be so selfish and make a record that makes more sense to me than anyone else but I was really trying to make a soundtrack for how I was feeling and I wasn't feeling that happy at the time. A lot of the extra soundbits meant something, for me, like an upset stomach or your brain getting overwhelmed by voices...These things are like an inside joke and I'm the only one who gets it." - Barbara Manning

"Nowhere, spelled out on the recording as "Now Here," is the first of two full-length albums the SF Seals released before calling it quits a couple of years later. As with many of the projects with which Manning has been involved, it features a number of tasteful covers, most notably Badfinger's chiming "Baby Blue" and Faine Jade's Zombies-sounding "Don't Underestimate Me" (how's that for obscure?). The material all works quite well, with the exception of "Demons on the Corners," eight minutes of ambient noise that would have made more sense as a bonus or hidden track. It threatens to derail the entire mostly pop-oriented enterprise, but is followed by the brassy "Missing," which ends the set on a strong note -- almost as strong as the exuberant "Back Again" which opens it." - Kathleen C. Fennessy

The San Francisco Seals:
Barbara Manning
Melanie Clarin
Michelle Cernuto
Lincoln Allen
Jay Paget
Brently Pusser
Chris Milner
Margaret Murray

1. Back Again
2. Don't Underestimate Me
3. 8's
4. Janine's Dream
5. Still?
6. Day 12
7. Winter Song
8. Baby Blue
9. Demons on the Corners
10. Missing



Rainy Day Sponge said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!
It was time for a Barbara Manning post. So great and so underestimated.

Dgrador said...

I agree. This record has always hit me hard, on one hand subtle yet keaving er soul completely raw and exposed.

L said...

I agree with Rainy Day Sponge. I've never heard this record and SO looking forward to it. THANKS.
- LD

Samuel said...

You need to listen to Girlysound by liz phair.

barbara manning said...

Hurray! Reading this blog just made me so happy! Thank you for the kind words and recalled memories.