By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Brooklyn's post-hardcore noise addicts clean up but won't turn it down
Five men walk into a Brooklyn bar. Some have beards. Some wear plaid. Some sport tattered leather jackets adorned with one-inch band buttons. Some have thick rimmed glasses. You know the type.
One of the bearded men wearing plaid asks his bearded companion in leather (or maybe it's the other way around?) if he's seen the lineup for this year's Bonnaroo, the four-day music festival held in June in Manchester, Tennessee.
Smiles. Head nods in the affirmative. Happiness.
"Petty," one of the men says. "Yes. That's right. Tom Petty. Need I say more?"
The answer, for these men, is no. The rest of the lineup doesn't interest them. Because Tom Petty is the Greatest of All Time, they agree.
What's the big deal? This is just another night of men looking like this, talking like this, and dressing like this in a bar in Brooklyn. But that these men in particular have such affection for Petty is a surprise. These men are a band, the Men. And, until now, nothing about the Men's music has suggested they would think Petty is anything other than a sad, aging, Billboard-charting bastion of Sellout Dad Rock.
That's because the Men's first two full-length albums are glorious high-water marks of post-hardcore, new-millennium "pigfuck" (a term coined in our pages by Robert Christgau in a 1987 Pazz & Jop essay), a noise-addict's speedball of exuberant cacophony topped with a healthy helping of spazz. Just two short years ago, they sought to rewrite indie rock's playbook using guitars covered in filth, songs with titles like "Shittin' With the Shah," and phlegmy coughs as lyrics. They were brazen enough to cop an album title from the Ramones, Leave Home, for a second album that managed to capture the aggression of the Stooges, the canned mechanics of Neu!, the bombast of Touch and Go–era Butthole Surfers, and the pure, unbridled gutter-slime splendor of SST's apex, put them all in a blender and set that blender on fire. They hit every entry in the index of Michael Azzerad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life.
Or that's how it played to the music critics, at least. Of course, this stuff is practically programmed to light up the synapses of the kind of pasty white guys who sob quietly to themselves when they remember Amphetamine Reptile closing up shop. Men drummer Rich Samis jokingly remembers those critics "flipping their wigs" and saying that Leave was "the dirtiest record, man. New York City underground dirt!"
And so the glowing reviews from Important Outlets like Pitchfork (which bestowed its vaunted Best New Music stamp of approval on Open Your Heart) and SPIN naturally followed. We at the Voice were fans too, describing Leave Home's "atonal downtown splatter" as "brawny, muscular bludgeon that's one generation removed from metalcore"—and on the forefront of pigfuck's coming revival.
Which is all to say: Tom fucking Petty?
The Men's fourth LP, New Moon (which shares a title with something a little less badass than the Ramones: a book in the Twilight series), comes out March 5 on Sacred Bones. And New Moon contains, for the Men, some very new, classic, Petty-esque sounding tunes. How they got there isn't too hard to see. There is a lineup change involved. And a cabin in the Catskills. And a campfire, too. Of course there is.
"Do you have earplugs?"
Ben Greenberg, 28, is the Men's multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer/everything-er. And a lot has changed about the band since he joined.
He walks down the stairs of a rundown building on Grand Street in Williamsburg, ducking by the landlord who's replacing the entryway's linoleum floor. Through a door is a tight 20-by-20-foot space full of too many amps to count, cords dangling on the walls, a collection of instruments, and the rest of the Men.
Sitting at a piano is the shaggy Mark Perro, one of the group's founders and principal songwriters. Next to him towers another original member, guitarist/vocalist Nick Chiericozzi, a soft-spoken dude in boots and tight jeans. A grinning Samis sits behind the drum kit. By his side, Kevin Faulkner, the band's bass player and newest member, stands at attention. Greenberg, who wears black-framed glasses and swooping bangs, grabs his guitar. At Samis's drum kick, they launch into "The Brass," the violent, volcanic song full of aggression and frustration that kicks of the b-side of New Moon. The Men wail.
In "The Brass"—although it's a punk song at heart—there are strains of country, Americana, and classic rock. They were there in traces on Open Your Heart, too, but New Moon takes the band further into that realm, off the hard-bitten city streets (of Williamsburg) and onto dusty back roads. In the middle of the audio chaos stands Greenberg, singing "I'm not rich, but you know I coulda been."
It wouldn't be entirely accurate to call the Men Greenberg's band now—they insist they're a pure democracy, and that there is no Leader of Men—but it wouldn't be entirely wrong, either. Greenberg joined the band permanently in November 2011, first as a bass player and now a guitarist. Growing up in New York, he graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and made his name as a musician in Pygmy Shrews, a revered underground post-punk duo. During that time, he'd worked on both Leave Home and Open Your Heart, as well as the Immaculada EP and various Men tapes before them. Based on his work with the Men, other bands came calling, seeking his production help.