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Album review: MEN's 'Talk About Body'

February 2, 2011 | 11:19 am

Men For some, utopia is the suburbs with nuclear families built around heterosexual couples. But for MEN, the new art-performance collective from Le Tigre’s JD Samson, utopia is an ever-propulsive dance party where gender is just another thing to be manipulated with the great pitch-shifter of the imagination, especially febrile at 3 a.m.

Think you’re a woman? Identify yourself as gay? Every assumed persona gets cooked at high flame -- with occasional introspective moments and always a brain informing the boogie -- in Samson’s spicy brew, concocted with Michael O’Neill and Ginger Brooks Takahashi (and with a little help from fellow Le Tigre Johanna Fateman and artist Emily Roysdon). While there’s nothing on “Talk About Body” that meets the iconic watermark of Le Tigre material such as  “Hot Topic,” MEN roots its songs in plenty of political rhetoric that strikes a more subtle, complicated note. “Take Your Shirt Off,” for instance, features the most woefully conflicted call to get topless in recent memory.

Musically speaking, MEN is not always the most innovative -- the stock of sounds on “Talk About Body” are skillfully sewn together, but it’s all straight from the post-disco playbook. Whatever it might lack in inventiveness, MEN makes up for with a smart, detailed comprehension of dance floor dynamics: the tension of the build and the satisfaction of the release.

The band’s fearless embrace of radical politics in a time when so many musicians don’t mention anything even slightly controversial goes a long way too. An alternative reality created for gender studies majors and those interested in anything outside of normative hetero relations, “Credit Card Babie$” expresses a different vision of family values than what we’ve heard before -- albeit one still financed by MasterCard. Touché, gender pioneers. Some things in America will never change.

-- Margaret Wappler

“Talk About Body”
Three stars (out of four)