The Men

Leave Home

(Sacred Bones; 2011)

By David M. Goldstein | 1 July 2011

Creating an open-palmed face-slap record is an art often underrated, far more difficult to achieve than one would think, which is evidenced by how many shitty bands are capable of playing loudly on thrift store equipment and yet cannot respectfully achieve mouth-socking, unnerving fear in the listener. I’m talking about the aural threat of physical violence; I’m talking albums usually abetted by borderline mentally ill vocalists and stomach-churning bass frequencies. The last three Blood Brothers records had these qualities in spades, and are still ideal for when I want to inch ever closer to tinnitus or remind my downstairs neighbors how much I hate them. Mclusky’s The Difference Between You and Me Is I’m Not On Fire (2004) threw some equally intense tantrums. Since both of these bands no longer exist—sure Bon Iver has his place in indie America, but he’s made of softer stuffs, of pacifism and handshakes—where to go nowadays if I’m not feeling Black Metal and still want to have my headphones rearrange my face?

Enter the Men, mysterious Brooklynites whose new record was referred to by CMG scribe Alan Baban as the “best pure slap in the face” he’s heard all year. He’s not wrong, though he fails to mention the implied hand is wielding brass knuckles. The Men treat feedback like Jackson Pollock treated paint cans, resulting in dangerously distorted frequencies that can in no way be considered accidental—I mean, I’m pegging the Men for absolute studio geeks who spent countless, sequestered hours getting the guitars on “L.A.D.O.C.H.” to sound just like that. The latter is the conclusion of Leave Home‘s Side A, and appears simplistic on paper, all Shellac-sounding drums pounding over bowel-loosening feedback squalls and indiscriminate shouts about “The bringer of everything!” It packs a considerate and, yes, frightening wallop. Now that it’s over, take a few seconds to catch your breath.

As further delineated by the cover art, Leave Home is unquestionably meant to be a Side A/B affair. The first four “songs” aren’t so much actual tunes as four collages dedicated to filling your ear canals with as much aggressive white noise as possible. (Ask yourself, “Can white noise be aggressive?” You get another slap for such a whussy question.) “If You Leave…” is sadly not an OMD cover, yet still British-sounding enough, a bad shoegaze trip calling Spacemen 3 to one’s fevered mind. “Think” is all uncomfortable anger and bashing, and repeated exposure to the aforementioned “L.A.D.O.C.H.” has been known to cause cancer in lab animals.

Of course Side B is all about the pop moves! “( )” and “Bataille” are back-to-back krautrock ditties with (barely) understandable verses and actual guitar solos, loaded with forward propulsion to inspire maximum headbang effort. Then “Shittin’ With the Shah” (nice Urinals reference, that) is surprisingly pleasant, at least comparatively, a soft-to-LOUD instrumental indebted to Mogwai and their ilk, and “Night Landing” brings everything full circle with more painfully loud shouting, more krautrock, more blood-splashed, orgiastic fervor, more face-bruising.

Even at only eight songs, a full listen of Leave Home is an exhausting affair. Your best bet is to simply pick a side depending on your mood, and then spend the next twenty minutes treating your eardrums like the ungrateful bitches they are. I prefer Side B for enhancing otherwise mundane tasks like the evening commute home or cleaning the bathroom; Side A is reserved for when my sports teams lose close games and I need to throw my house keys against the wall. Or find a pigeon to kick. Leave Home is manna for white noise aficionados and anyone who thought the last Future of the Left record was far too tempered (yeah that’s right). The Men have done a good thing here.