Brooklyn four-piece stand at the edge of a breakthrough – now, do they stick or twist?
Alex Deller 2011
Let’s just get this out in the open from the get-go: The Men are weird, and The Men are not going to play music that will always necessarily please you.
The Brooklyn band’s latest album Leave Home, y’see, is a wonderful grab-bag of anomalous sounds that pilfers magpie-like from genre after genre as it charts its 41-minute course. Their most feted moment, Bataille, for instance, possesses a glacial sense of cool and cuts through the fug to be found elsewhere like cold autumn sunshine through a hangover, representing a back-handed slap to the face of every cut-rate indie twonk who’s ever had the gall to compare their band to The Stooges or The Velvet Underground. If you’re hoping the seven remaining tracks will be carbon copies of that then you’re in for a surprising ride, the rest of the album taking in everything from motorik krautrock meditations and hazy Spacemen 3isms to Sonic Youth-tinged garage rock and, in the tangled horror of L.A.D.O.C.H., a kind of white-hot noise-rock fury that recalls Billy Bao or the shapeless, undulating terror of Burmese.
If this latest hall-of-mirrors effort won’t settle the debate as to whether The Men pen brilliant albums or just brilliant songs that happen to be collected together it does, at least, represent their most refined effort to date. Their songwriting skills have been whittled and honed to a keen, glinting edge while the untamed squall of predecessor Immaculada has been channelled towards something far more purposeful, the flow of noise, feedback and crackling static seeming more controlled rather than gushing freely from every gaping orifice.
Demonstrating a joyous refusal to rein in their eclectic tastes or kowtow to what their audience might be expect, the band’s biggest challenge now might be in choosing where to go next, teetering, as they seem to be, on the brink of crossing over from the DIY scene that spawned them and into more popular parlance. Whether they successfully follow the likes of F***** Up and Black Lips down this treacherous path is anyone’s guess, but with a new album already scheduled for March 2012 we won’t have too long to wait to see whether they plummet or soar. Whichever it is, the results are likely to be spectacular.