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Album Review: Playboy Manbaby – “Don’t Let It Be”

I have been listening to Playboy Manbaby’s Don’t Let it Be since lead singer Robbie Pfeffer sent it to me on June 10, 2016. I have had to quietly sit on what I truly believe to be Playboy Manbaby’s best work and one of the best records to ever come out of Phoenix, Arizona for nearly nine months. But now, finally, following their February 25th release I can tell the world that Don’t Let it Be is absolutely amazing.

Even though Playboy Manbaby is a Phoenix super-group featuring some of the most musically talented Phoenicians the Valley of the Sun has to offer, they have always been more of a live band than one for the studio. But Don’t Let it Be will change all that. Don’t get me wrong: Playboy Manbaby will always be one of the most electrifying live bands in the country, but with the release of their new LP, they have a record that can stand up to their live performances.

In the past, Pfeffer has said, he and his band didn’t usually worry about silly trifles when recording (like whether or not Pfeffer knew all the words to the songs, or if everyone was on key). They would just get into the studio together and do it live. What would come out of that was always fun and upbeat, but very often Pfeffer’s vocals were indecipherable.

With this new record, they tracked each song and Pfeffer’s vocals, which makes for a much more gratifying listening experience. Every word comes through loud and clear and you can even hear the inflection in Robbie’s voice — a whole new experience when listening to a Playboy Manbaby record.

The album’s opener and lead single “You Can be a Fascist Too” is an explosive, sarcasm-laden track that even includes a chorus of backup singers and was featured in Village Voice’s anti-Trump playlist.

The rest of the album is just as incendiary as its opening track, and it touches on subject matter that Playboy Manbaby never went anywhere near in their previous records; they have also gone farther than ever before musically with Don’t Let It Be.

“Cadillac Car” is the farthest hip-hop Playboy has ever gone, while “Oprichniki” sounds like it could as easily have been written by Devo as Playboy Manbaby. Across the record, enormous musical risks yield enormous rewards in quality and nuance.

The final tune “White Jesus” is by far Playboy Manbaby’s most political track to date. Robbie, guitarist TJ Friga, bass player Chris Hudson, trumpeter David Cosme, saxman Ricky Smash, and drummer Chad Dennis take aim at the religious right with a biting and satirical punk rock song.

The overall effect of the album is 100% punk, but there are so many influences mixed in that it almost becomes its own sub-genre, Space-Cadet Thunder Punk. This record is out there.

5/5 Stars