It’s been a week now since I got to see Brooklyn’s the Men for the first time, and I’m still a little dizzy from impact. Their third record and debut for Sacred Bones, Leave Home, has been a staple for many days now and that’s a considerable feat for a record that has a glaze of ugly an inch thick before you even put it on. Seeing them perform is a wholly different experience. Sandwiched between bands that took their hardcore, punk and avant-garde pedigrees to a finite aesthetic, the Men were downright bohemian. One could almost call them hippies in the same way we applaud Oneida for their third-eye visions. There was choogle and jam and a bit of spiritual bliss in their extended riffs, almost enough to forget that Iceage was slated to hit the stage next. After that sweaty set, Leave Home opened up into a new dimension when I listened on my drive back from Gotham. All of a sudden there was a constant tug-o-war in my mind as to where I should place the Men. What mood was needed to mine everything this record had to offer?
Right from the outset, “If You Leave,” the album’s lead cut, sounded expansive, but now it was nearly infinite, a nomadic grind headed towards a glowing sun or “Kashmir” as played by the Stone Roses through big muffs. There are a number of heavy psychedelic poles at odds on Leave Home, influences, especially in guitar styles, that shouldn’t seem to mesh. “Lotus” is surf-tinged, but burly enough to satisfy the average Comets on Fire fanatic. “( )” is indebted to Hendrix and Blue Cheer (at times the song becomes so overblown it could very well be a live “Summertime Blues” tape-recording), but owes as much to the Jesus Lizard and the Boredoms. To call Leave Home a post-Lollapalooza bastard might elicit chuckles, even if you can hear the freak juice oozing of the wild saxophones snaking through “Think” or the incessant beatbox that defines the restless decadence of “Night Landing.” By all means the Men are trailing in the wake of what bands like Pissed Jeans and Mayyors did a couple of years back. One direct instance is the sonic brutality of “LADOCH.” It’s as painful and hard to swallow as anything made by the Swans and Melvins in their day. Coupled with a dollop of black metal shit-und-skree and a keen eye on theatrical ugliness, this is dungeon punk at its most real. Overall, though, the Men transcend towards actual beauty on Leave Home. They may just be a band pounding away with tallboys and reefer in tow, but there is an epic energy that washes away any want to disgust. Perhaps we’ll call it serenity through abrasion?