, December 12th, 2011 12:22
As scuzzy and tinnitus-inducing as Brooklyn group The Men's second LP is, their wellspring of creative inspiration doesn't come from shallow rock and roll posturing or self-aggrandizing theatrics. Instead the source of all their noise and fury is an encyclopaedic geek knowledge of the noisier punk rock elements of the last 30 years of musical history. There might be familiar elements here, but the Men make thrillingly punishing punk so well that this ceases to matter.
In some ways what The Men do here resembles what James Murphy did for mutant disco and danceable post punk; appropriate the past in novel combinations that manage to escape the confines of pastiche by their sheer mastery of execution. Their plundering of a musical genealogically that stretches back to the Stooges, makes for an exquisite straddling of the fine line between cerebral experimentation and visceral stupidity.
Album opener 'If You Leave' begins with a meandering prog intro that could almost be from a garage band version of Amon Duul II , before descending into a cascading shoegaze melody. The opening track is about as serene as the album gets before it embarks on its deranged stylistic journey, all united by blistering rawness, a furiously propulsive rhythm section, and perfect low fidelity production that gets what being lo-fi is really about. It's not a Wavves-like attempt at lazily obfuscating weak song writing while gathering pseudo-'edge', but rather a bare bones tonal treatment that highlights the craftsmanship and the intensity of the music. This is a thrillingly unpredictable listen too. The Men have the manic energy of a first rate hardcore band, but aren't afraid to delve into more sonically ambitious territory. They bravely insert a momentum-destroying but intensely satisfying doom-inspired track 'L.A.D.O.C.H' halfway through the album. This comes just before '()', which brazenly and knowingly steals the riff from Spacemen 3's 'Revolution'.
There's a mischievous humour in this thievery – see also the album's title to see an example. Leave Home is of course the title of the Ramones's classic second album. So while there is nothing on this album that those with noisy record collections have never heard before, it doesn't really matter. The Men are scholarly masters of rock and roll that manage to transcend the barriers of snobby ennui by literally smashing through it by the virtuosic intensity of their brain melting riffs and shrieking atonal guitar solos. Something this intense and well-made leaves you no choice but to feel a giddy adolescent rush as the next break-neck riff starts to kick in.
Is this just another example of pop eating itself? Is originality gone and dead and does it even matter? Should musical progress and evolution be an inevitable expectation? Perhaps we should stop asking the questions and learn to just enjoy the possibilities of the present, even as that present comes slowly crashing down around us in the form of The Men's highly enjoyable chaos.