Marc Jacobs Bang (2010): Niche for the Masses {New Fragrance} {Perfume Review & Musings}

Bang-visual.jpgAs previously said, Bang is the new Marc Jacobs scent for men after an 8-year lapse in masculine perfumery since Marc Jacobs for Men. Coty reportedly approached Jacobs with the idea of a new men's launch. While the fragrance is not officially a celebrity juice it was conceived in a similar spirit, in my view, by a company which specializes in this type of autobiographical fragrances. No perfumer names are given except the name of company Givaudan and that of fragrance developer Ann Gottlieb whose name is behind many commercial successes in perfumery. Added: The fragrance was actually composed by perfumers Yann Vasnier and Ellen Molner.

A dedicated Bang website has been set up.

The main olfactory idea behind Bang - and not just its starting point as I found out - relies on the effect of showcasing Marc Jacobs's personal taste in fragrance. The designer explained himself that,

"I wanted to do something that I would love," said Jacobs. "I particularly like spice notes, especially pepper, so that became a starting place."

Smelling Bang is discovering, as befits the genre of celebrity-wardrobe-fragrance (see Fergie Outspoken), a remix of favorite scents worn by Jacobs already available on the market, but condensed, blended together. 

Notes: Pink, black and white peppercorns, "warm primal masculine woods", elemi resinoid, benzoin resin, vetyver, white moss, patchouli...



The opening of Bang  is very peppery and woodsy. Looking at the list describing a panaché of peppers: black, white and pink is like visualizing one of those giant, transparent pepper mills filled with the three kinds of peppers that sit atop the clued-in dining tables. The style of the accord is reminiscent of the spicy woody signature of the Comme des Garçons lineup of fragrances. Soon the woods become less abstract and smell of both a wet and dry cedar with a touch a liquor which reminds me most of Frapin Caravelle Epicée. There is a discrete lactonic, milky nuance which evokes the sweet honeyed milky touch of Poivre Piquant by L'Artisan Parfumeur. If you like pepper, these scents would be natural references.  

For the cognoscenti, i.e., the ones whom I see as liking to approach perfumes from the perspectives of both vertical (historical) and horizontal (market) comparison, it is quickly apparent that Bang carries an olfactory signature often tagged as being "niche" but which has been tamed a little bit to make it less punchy overall than what a fragrance from a confidential label unafraid (in principle) of market segmentation would do with a jus meant to make their wearers stand out and feel good about the social distinction factor. Obviously a naked, greasy and oiled Marc Jacobs holding Bang on the lower part of his anatomy is not going to be concerned with making you believe that you are particularly refined. The Bang ad is more sailor's pinup aesthetics than that of an Italian Renaissance painting, although maybe if Jacobs could point his index in the right direction we might get a sense of déjà vu.

Bang does open on a bang of woods and peppers, which are clearly here to make an immediate impression, but at the same time the perfume is more spread out, like water poured on a tray would spread out instead of doggedly cultivating the impression of depth.

The result is paradoxical: the aesthetics of reference are culturally that of a niche perfume house which still believes in the principle of forceful impact, but a reflex of politeness and a self-effaced attitude soon take over the initial outburst. 

The spices in Bang are less heavy-duty than in, say, Comme des Garçons 2 - or their woody bases more generally speaking - which all bear the strong imprint of Mark Buxton's original composition. Idem when you compare it with Caravelle Epicée by Frapin; in fact, I see Bang as a fusion of the spicy-woody signature of the more masculine Caravelle Epicée with the more feminine floral inflections found in Frapin Esprit de Fleurs which belongs to the same collection issued in 2007.

Like Fleur du Mâle by Jean-Paul Gaultier in the spring of 2007, Bang by Marc Jacobs attempts to introduce a noticeable, gender-bending, yet still subtle floral signature within a masculine composition destined to the wider market. While Fleur du Mâle put the accent on an overdose of orange blossom, Bang is more interested in creating a bouquet of diffuse flowers, a millefleurs of sorts. It is more like the invisible floral signature of Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme in its effect although they do not smell alike. 

Designed to be wearable, Bang will not convince lovers of strongly typed perfumery, who love a roar or two, that it is an explosive Bang! they are hearing. On the other hand, it can be seen as an entry point in the realm of quirky scents where woods smell realistically fibrous and pepper is amplified.

To my nose, the balance of woods and florals in Bang makes it more of an unisex fragrance but with a light masculine edge. The composition soon becomes quite hushed with the resins and pepper hanging onto the skin. The drydown is like a subtle cloud-of-milk twist on Poivre Piquant by L'Artisan Parfumeur. The longer drydown into the next day smells of a very nice amber and musk scent with a hint of the vintner charm found in the Frapin fragrances. Even more than wearable, the scent was designed to be squarely unobtrusive. It is a true Eau de Toilette, meant to leave a trace of a scent and to be reapplied if necessary.

I tried overdosing the application, but to no avail. Soon a murmur interrupts the experiment. If you are forever afraid of over applying, it is a desirable choice from that perspective.  

The bottle is sculptural and does create a visual Bang. Designed by Harry Allen it recalls the aesthetics of crushed-in objects which have filtered into the mainstream over the last few years. You started seeing the rare crushed-in ceramic cup, then they appeared in museum boutiques and today Mac Donald's is offering a free crushed-in cup in the color of your choosing with your meal. But in the context of perfume-flacon making, it is very unexpected and plays the card of a rogue design.

Bang was created to woo young men from 25 years old.Does that explain the slightly shy inflections of this perfume? Or is it more like the Cologne du Parfumeur by Guerlain, an anticipation that times and generations have changed and that it is now time to cultivate the art of perfuming oneself stealthily?

When you see the contrast between the visual of Marc Jacobs naked and the perfume itself being hushed down, you certainly get a sense that perfume toleration has a much lower threshold than visual toleration in society these days. In a way and in absentia it makes me feel optimistic that perfume retains its shock value intact.  

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