++ CLICK TO RSVP ++
Sonar Productions/ Unregistered Nurse Present;
Pygmy Shrews (FACEBOOK)
The Men (BLOGSPOT)
Sacred Bones; 2011
Nothing is sacred to the Men. For one, this Brooklyn quartet’s name is pretty much identical to that of fellow New Yorker JD Samson’s active post-Le Tigre project, MEN. Their 2010 sophomore release, Immaculada, featured a caterwauling noise-punk thrasher called “Oh Yoko” that had absolutely nothing to do with the classic John Lennon song, or Ms. Ono herself, for that matter. Their new album swipes its title from a legendary record by New York’s most famous punk band, the Ramones. And part way through the obliquely titled mid-album track “( )”, when the band realize they’re ripping off the fuzz-bomb riff to Spacemen 3’s “Revolution”, they just go ahead and swipe a line from the song too, and cap it with another quote from Spacemen’s “Take Me to the Other Side” for good measure. And yet: For all the cheeky references and inside jokes at play on the Men’s Leave Home, you’d be hard-pressed to find a purer, no-bullshit, serious-as-a-heart-attack rock record released this year.
Listening to Leave Home feels a lot like living inside of Michael Azerrad’s 1980s indie-rock tome Our Band Could Be Your Life, variously bringing to mind Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.’s SST stints, Sub Pop-vintage Mudhoney, and Touch and Go-era Butthole Surfers (who surely would approve of a song title like “Shittin’ With the Shah”). Tellingly, Azerrad’s book ties up its narratives the moment its subjects signed to majors— partly because, technically speaking, they ceased to be indie rock at that point but, more importantly, because those artists produced their most enduring, groundbreaking music while recording for independent labels. Leave Home is likewise a frozen tableau of that tipping point, imagining a parallel universe in which your favorite first-wave indie-rock bands never had to sign on corporate letterhead, never got anywhere near MTV, never toned down their act, and never got old— they just kept on blowing minds at the peak of their powers in perpetuity.
Where the discographies of those aforementioned influences can more or less be plotted on a straight line from chaos to control, the Men’s modest catalogue thus far presents no such linear evolutionary trajectory. Immaculada may have introduced folky acoustic guitar passages and extended doom-metal instrumentals to their post-hardcore attack, but rather than continue to explore those stylistic detours, Leave Home sees the Men return to the full-torque distorto-rock of their 2009 debut EP, but blow it up on a grander scale with a more intense batch of songs. And rather than try to upgrade the fidelity to accommodate the more epic execution, the unapologetic corrosiveness of the sound is ultimately what gives it its power and heft.
So that means Leave Home’s boldest gesture— the seven-minute opener “If You Leave…”— is also its least typical, not just for its tsunami-sized shoegaze haze, but for its open-hearted candor, as its lone, repeated lyric (“I would die”) provides a surprisingly affecting answer to the title’s open-ended suggestion. The song is every bit as surprising coming from these guys as the similarly miasmic “Farewell” was on Boris’ 2006 album Pink, showcasing the respective bands’ abilities to be as blissful as they are bludgeoning. But where “Farewell” anticipated the Japanese doom demigods’ eventual drift toward melodic accessibility, “If You Leave…” is a calm-before-the-storm misdirection. By the time Leave Home’s side one winds down with the grueling, hoarse-throat howls and torturous, slow-motion squall of “L.A.D.O.C.H.”, you’ll be wondering if you’re still listening to the same band.
But on Leave Home’s second half, the Men’s dual affinities for brute punk-rock force and bad-trip psychedelia fuse together to brilliant effect, with a searing series of songs that refuse to relent even as they encroach on the five-minute mark— in particular, the storming “Bataille” suggests Sonic Youth’s “Hey Joni” as recorded by Funhouse-era Stooges, while the closing “Night Landing” effectively blurs the line between krautrock and punk in fine Neu! ‘75-style. Of course, with a name like the Men— and reference points like these— it’s all too fitting that this album will undoubtedly appeal to a certain subset of record-collecting dudes. But the Men’s treatment of their well-curated influences is less akin to that of fan-boys playing in a tribute act and a lot more like an irreverent hip-hop producer’s approach to breaks— key in on your sources’ coolest moments, change the context, and ride that perfect sound forever.