While Mr. John Lydon didn’t feel the need this time round to harass the Queen as she messed about on the Thames, something of his punk husbandry was alive and screaming in north-east London last week. Lovers of noise were afforded three opportunities over the Jubilee weekend to witness something as ear-splittingly galvanizing as that set in motion by the musical sea change of thirty five years ago. The purveyors of this racket seemed unsure how to pronounce ‘Jubilee’ in their intro… perhaps this was because they are Americans, the Brooklyn based post-punk quartet that is The Men.
Their first sonic assault was at Saturday’s Field Day in Victoria Park, Hackney. Despite their daylight outing, a friend commented to me positively by email that they produced “a deafening chaotic sludge. You won’t be disappointed.” On Sunday after all the messing around in boats and rain was over, The Men could be heard to take the Shacklewell Arms (Hackney again) apart with their second aural battery of the weekend. This was the warm-up to Wednesday’s gig supporting Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo. They tore through a thirty-minute set with the brutality of a rushed lobotomy. They smashed and pummeled a grateful moshing crowd with a relentless pounding cacophony. I was not disappointed.
Wednesday’s third maelstrom at the Scala was no less restrained with The Men delivering a flawless showcase of their noise manifesto. The forty-five minute set opened with ‘I saw her face’, a billowing thunderstorm reminiscent of a stomping Neil Young. New material was aired but it was in the standards from their last two albums, such as ‘Turn it around’ and ‘Open up your Heart’ played back to back in a deafening blitzkrieg, that they showed their strengths. Despite the apparent mindlessness of the bombardment of drums, bass and wailing guitars, they reference a plethora of sub-genres in their headlong rush to oblivion. Buried deep in the core of their sound is a sensibility that inherently understands and connects with the lyricism of rock and pop way further back than Mr. Butter Ad’s dabblings. These guys, sorry Men, go beyond easy classification – simply put, this was probably the gig of the year…and you missed it.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Hugh Hamshaw-Thomas.