by Mike Corrigan
Barbara Manning has been a quiet force in the indie rock underground since the mid-'80s, moving through the world and tossing off profoundly affecting sonic jewels with casual flair.
Featuring the formidable talents of her current backing band, The Go-Luckys! (comprised of twin brothers Flavio and Fabrizio Steinbach on drums and bass),You Should Know By Know is one of the strongest entries in Manning's long discography, alternating between full-throttle punk fervor (as on the opener, "Don't Neglect Yourself") and gentle, introspective ballads (the beautiful "I Insist").
Over the instrumental fuzz, jangle and thump floats Manning's distinctly warm and immediate vocals. And as always, her refreshing naivete is tempered with deeply probing and insightful lyrics that reveal a rich inner life and a profound confidence in her own abilities and voice. For example, on "You Knock Me Out," a deceptively innocent song about a new infatuation (or love?), she playfully reveals, "Holding back increases appetite/Makes me want to take a great big bite."
"Rhombus" comes on like a children's lullaby -- albeit one with a spooky undercurrent. In "Never Made Love" Manning unflinchingly explores a brief but intense summer affair as softly distorting guitars rhythmically growl in the background.
The album closes with "Incapable" which initially laments the fleeting nature of love but winds up celebrating human resiliency. For every downcast observation ("For every time it's broken/Why don't my heart stay dead?") Manning returns with a moment of redemption ("For anybody out there that can hear me/I'm all right now").
Thwarted love. Unrequited love. Hopeless and hapless love. It's all about love. Isn't it always?