Every year of new music demands that one great rock record that almost literally screams right in its listener’s face, pushes him backward over a trash can, gives him a pink belly, grabs him by the jowls, tosses him face-first into a kiddie pool half-full with Jell-O, hangs him upside-down until all the change falls out of his pocket, then runs away laughing maniacally, leaving that poor, bruised son of a bitch, gooey and pockets turned outward, wondering just what in the hell happened. The year isn’t over just yet, but for 2011, The Men’s Leave Home delivers precisely that kind of experience with scraped knuckles and a smile.
The Men, formed in 2008 by Brooklynites Nick Chiericozzi, Chris Hansell and Mark Perro (with drummer Rick Samis joining shortly thereafter), pound out a mercilessly dense and noise-ridden form of post-hardcore on their Sacred Bones debut that owes as much to the motorik grooves of Neu! as it does to the beastly noise rock of Shellac. In a way, their brand of melodic destruction is elegant, at times owing more to their undeniable knack for melodies and atmosphere than to their sheer brutality. And yet, then again, there are moments on new album Leave Home such as “Think,” which offer nothing less than screeching terror, with overdrive levels dangerously close to blowing a speaker. The Men are complicated brutes.
Further reinforcing this curious divide between The Men’s more pop-minded creations and their structured exercises in noise is that Leave Home is divided pretty neatly into two distinct halves. Its first half is unquestionably the more venomous, distortion clouding every movement and feedback piercing any semblance of a break amidst the chaos. “Think” and its more chaotic, unhinged neighbor “L.A.D.O.C.H.” reveal a remarkably antagonistic band, pounding and screaming out some of the most menacing sludge this side of a Pissed Jeans record. Yet, the album opens with one of its most soaring and accessible tracks, “If You Leave…” Noise and volume play as much a role in this song as the others, but here the band opts for a transcendent anthem rather than a guttural throwdown, achieving that rare perfect balance in power and songcraft that eludes many with similar aims.
While The Men, by no means, soften their approach on the second half of Leave Home, they round out their arsenal of noise with immediacy. For a band with such affection for all things deafening, they nonetheless have a way with melodies, and simple ones at that, offering a fine example of how accessible sonic annihilation can be. The fuzzy burst of “( )” takes a similar tack as “Think,” but with more of a Jesus and Mary Chain vibe, while a propulsive beat and surf-inspired riffs drive the jaw-dropping “Bataille.” Up until its final 90 seconds of full-blown rocking the fuck out, “Shittin’ With the Shah” is practically a ballad by the band’s standards, while closer “Night Landing” underscores the band’s head-nodding death-wave jams with a throbbing drum machine beat.
Scant few moments on Leave Home are delivered without maximum intensity, but the band’s onslaught never seems overly labored or burdensome. It’s an extremely fun brand of ferocity, and one that sounds fresh regardless of how many bands before them have chugged out dense layers of guitars under as much fuzz is humanly possible. This year may well deliver another album that treats its listener as a carelessly tenderized plaything, but it’s hard to imagine one quite this enjoyable.
Stream: The Men – “Bataille”