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The Men - Leave Home

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Artist: The Men

Album: Leave Home

Label: Sacred Bones

Review date: May. 23, 2011

The Men know how to fake you out. Leave Home starts with a few minutes of ambiguous noise. Feedback whines distantly, another guitar clanks and wobbles, sketching out a scant melody. It could be preparation for some epic rock, or maybe just a meandering study in tone and dissonance.

Nick Chiericozzi, Mark Perro and Chris Hansell go with Option No. 1; the track blooms into an echoing ‘80s-style sliding riff, playing off psychedelic harmonies. Think The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” or Sonic Youth’s “Star Power.” So, The Men are crowd pleasers. Experimenters with a dramatic streak.

But by the middle Leave Home, things have degenerated severely. “L.A.D.O.C.H.” is an oozing tarpit, a slow, crawling threat built around drum crashes. And The Men’s sludge is just as convincing as when they go soaring through the sky. More surprisingly, the agony doesn’t come as a shock. The intervening tracks have grown heavier, pouring more and more pollution in the tub. At some point, the sewage got past your neck.

By the closer, they tidied up enough for comparisons to Neu! A drum machine loop takes over for whoever drummed through the sludge track (The Men’s drummer, Rich Samis, joined after the LP was recorded), as Chiericozzi whittles out a beat on phaser guitar.

There are only eight songs on Leave Home, and none of them seem to refer to The Ramones album of the same name. But they do rub up against all sorts of other sounds that came in the wake of punk. Every track wants to slap you, and each whack comes from a different direction. There appears to be at least three songwriters in the band, taking turns on lead and rhythm instruments. Three competing styles isn’t a recipe for intra-band stability, but for all the shifting attitudes, The Men comes up with singular presence.

It’s surprising how much of this record is instrumental — the friction is constant enough that there’s no real need to pay attention to the voices. The evil streak helps them outdo a lot of contemporary attempts at shoegaze. Their way with wall-of-sound majesty makes the ugly parts more stark. Approaches to guitar rock that are generally better segregated sound great together here, as they jump from ‘90s indie to shotgun at yr face drunkfuzz. I’ve got no idea where they can go with this. For now, they’ve made a record that leaves me spinning after every spin.

By Ben Donnelly

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