MEN

Talk About Body

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AllMusic Review by

MEN, the art/music collective formed by Le Tigre's J.D. Samson, formed in 2007 but didn’t release their debut album, Talk About Body, until four years later. However, it’s clear that the band -- which also features Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Michael O’Neill and Samson's Le Tigre bandmate Johanna Fateman as a collaborator -- spent that time well, honing its sound and message into something equally appealing and radical. Given MEN's pedigree, it’s not surprising that the band’s kinetic fusion of disco, punk, indie rock, and synth punk echoes not only Le Tigre, but also Peaches (with whom Samson toured as part of her live band), the Gossip, and Chicks on Speed -- all groups of women and men who don’t conform to prescribed gender roles or expectations. However, Talk About Body has a much more polished sound than most of those other acts’ output, all the better to balance MEN's often blunt lyrics. “My life! My crime! My gift to you is a mercy fuck!,” Samson wails on the album’s opening salvo, “Life’s Half Price.” On the fiery “Boom Boom Boom,” which recalls a more approachable version of Chicks on Speed's attacks on the status quo, she demands government-sponsored sewing machines instead of another war, and capitalism, cold hard cash, and the disturbing ease with which people are turned into commodities are frequent targets on Talk About Body. Yet the album is much more than a women’s studies course pack set to music. Even the title attempts to bridge the gap between the mental and the physical, between thinking and dancing. “Take Your Shirt Off” pairs a booty-shaking beat with ambivalent words, while “Off Our Backs” flips the title of lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs and channels some of Le Tigre's joyfully subversive spirit. And just when Talk About Body threatens to become strident, MEN show their vulnerable and sentimental sides with songs like the anthemic “Simultaneously” and shout-outs to influences and loved ones like “My Family” and “Rip Off,” which name-checks Gang of Four and Orange Juice. A firebrand debut album, Talk About Body celebrates the struggle and freedom in defying easy classification.

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