It was a packed house last Tuesday night at Madame JoJos in Soho. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the headlining act was JD Samson’s latest project MEN. I mean, on the one hand MEN hasn’t received the kind of media attention JD’s most famous band, Le Tigre, did, but on the other hand, MEN’s concept of mixing dance music with worthy lyrics is a pretty winning combo as far as queer audiences are concerned, and JD has been involved with so many different artists over the years, she has garnered a fan base all her own.
MEN was orginally a DJ/remix outfit, consisting of Johanna Fatemen & JD, which was good news for Le Tigre fans, as that band went on indefinite hiatus in 2006. The name MEN came about as they asked themselves “What would men do?”, vowing to always do that, and more.
MEN began to develop as a band with original songs, but then Johanna Fateman had a baby, so JD was joined by Michael O’Neill and Ginger Brooks Takahashi from queer art collective LTTR, who added guitars to JD’s synth.
I have to admit, before Tuesday I had only listened to the early incarnation of MEN, and I wasn’t all that keen, being a grumpy old woman who is not particularly into upbeat dance-type music, and I missed the punk attitude of Le Tigre. I was mainly going along out of curiosity, and because I always love seeing JD perform.
Well, I have to say that while the songs are still firmly rooted in the disco camp, I loved MEN. The inclusion of the guitars, the spirit of the lyrics, and the visual spectacle all combined for an amazingly warm, totally fun show. The costumes (mediaeval chain mail helmets, purple lycra body suits, a paper house JD wore on her head), as well as the backing dancers who held up protest signs saying things like “Fuck your friends” (for the song about making gay babies), made it clear that MEN is more than just a band, and they’re keen on making the elements of politics, art and queer fun equally important – much like Le Tigre, come to think of it. But MEN are a band in their own right, and it’s unfair to keep bringing in the Le Tigre references, I was completely impressed and utterly won over.
Opening for MEN was London band Trash Kit, who I raved a tiny bit about in an earlier post. Trash Kit are great, full stop. But I couldn’t help feeling that while as musicians they no doubt enjoyed the good sound offered by Madame JoJos, it took something away from the music, made it cleaner, neater, which always tends to make me feel more distant from any band (and seems incongruous when a band is playing with torn up cymbals).
The inclusion of Ros Murray (Electralane, Lesbo Pig) on bass was a good move, as Trash Kit’s sound tends towards the no wave/tribal post punk which really was calling out for a bass to develop it further, but again, I guess due to the “good sound” I found the bass somewhat overpowering on Tuesday night, and preferred Trash Kit’s earlier performances in less fancy places with Rachel on guitar, and Rachel on drums. I guess I’m something of a sucker for shambolic, chaotic, raw sound. However, I’m looking forward to seeing them again as a trio in a different venue. How could I not love a band that does a song about being mixed race (Filipino Song)?
I’m super excited about their forthcoming release, and I’d say, play alongside your ESG, Raincoats, New Bloods & YPants records.
MEN – Off Our Backs (video by K8 Hardy from LTTR)