In the past, the shows of pop deconstructionists Frisky and Mannish have mixed styles and genres in order to demonstrate the basic history and rules of popular music, and have even considered the lives and music of members of the ’27 club’. In their latest show, Just Too Much, which previewed at Latitude this weekend in a slightly truncated form a little later than scheduled, F&M look at break-downs in pop, from Miley Cyrus to Sinead O’Connor, and in the process ask some important (and hilarious) questions about gender and celebrity in contemporary music.
Just Too Much begins with an imagined series of letters from Sinead O’Connor to a variety of icons who have made questionable decisions in the past, finishing with Frisky and Mannish themselves, as the Irish singer berates them for their actions. This sequence is then followed by a number which showcases the pair’s not insignificant amount of genius, as they pull apart the meanings of various pop songs as they attempt to find a feminist pop anthem. Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, the Spice Girls and Miley are all considered then binned, leaving a surprising but brilliant choice at the end of it all.
Over the course of the next hour, we’re treated to a sublime sea-shanty version of ‘Rather Be’ (which is almost as good as Clean Bandit’s own rendition the following night in the 6Music tent) and other pop delicacies before a surreal but masterful dream sequence, which draws on everything from Disney to Debussy. Though the various songs are ostensibly fairly disparate, the duo manage to find some kind of through line in order to extrapolate on their chosen themes, taken apart each with the tenacity of a Rottweiler and the charm of a Disney prince.
Even though Just Too Much is still going through a period of honing and sharpening on its way to Edinburgh, and was without its opening and closing numbers on this occasion, it already looks like it may be F&M’s best show to date. Here, the years of interrogation, humour and craft come to a head as they manage to make a show which is hilarious and honest and asks us to reconsider our own attitudes to popular music. In their trademark postmodern fashion, however, the critique is not without love and irony, and the pair manage to subvert and undermine these tropes just as they succumb to their glorious and attractive potential to entertain.
Just Too Much was on at Latitude Festival.