Will last the distance longer than most base didactic slogan-pop ever has.
Martin Aston 2011-02-02
JD Samson, the spearhead of MEN (and the sideline venture HIRSUTE) is the proud owner of a grizzly bear tattoo. And a rather dapper moustache. Samson is indeed her real surname. Frida Kahlo, eat your hairy heart out.
It’s been a while since alt-rock had a queer/gender agenda, and MEN (Samson joined by guitarists Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Michael O’Neil) rise to the challenge, aligning playful and serrated lyrical spin to lithe and contagious moves that take their cue from Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, 80s post-punk pop, synth-pop and 90s electro. Talk About Body is thus a long, long way from the oblique post-shoegaze blur of chillwave, witch house, ill-bient and experimental dubstep at the cutting edge of the alternative. It’s even a long way from Samson’s last outings, as a member of Peaches’ recent touring band and of electro punks Le Tigre fronted by Kathleen ‘Riot Grrrl’ Hanna. But you don’t need to look far for its real influences, as the self-confessional Rip Off begins, "Orange Juice is the centre of the world" and adding, "Attempting to fuse post punk guitars / With disco and funk rhythms / Rather in the manner of the Gang of Four." Why beat about the bush?
Beyond that, the album gives a lie to the notion you can’t dance to issues like, "wartime economies, sexual compromise and demanding liberties" (according to their manifesto). The terse, sinewy opener Life’s Half Price is a bit misleading (and overlong) but Credit Card Babies proves you can address same-sex strife over parenthood and adoption (sing along now: "I’m gonna f*** my friends and make a little tiny baby") while sounding utterly carefree and liberated.
Likewise MEN’s last single Off Our Backs, which addresses the power play in relationships in terms of money and sex. Brilliantine, wiry pop songs with bouncy choruses – best on Boom Boom Boom and Who Am I to Feel So Free – keep on coming, with Simultaneously a sultrier breather. Samson is not a wonderfully gifted singer-cum-declaimer, but she gets her point across well. And if it’s sometimes hard to establish what her point always is, the subtle and effervescent Talk About Body will last the distance longer than most base didactic slogan-pop ever has.