The Pick: The Men’s fuzzed-out reinvention of punk rock at NXNE

The Pick: The Men’s fuzzed-out reinvention of punk rock at NXNE

(Image: Angel Ceballos) 

No one would confuse 2012 with 1979, but thanks to genre-bending acts like Denmark’s Iceage, Vancouver’s White Lung and local faves Fucked Up, punk rock is experiencing a modern-day renaissance—both in creativity and in critical adulation. North by Northeast, which runs until Sunday, June 17, certainly isn’t immune to such trends: last year at Yonge-Dundas Square, The Descendants earned devil-horned salutes from yoga moms and denim vest–wearing truants alike. In 2009, fierce girl group Mika Miko, paired with No Age at Lee’s Palace, stole hipster hearts by the bushel. So, at this year’s fest, what new group is poised to graduate from grimy VFW halls to the main stage? The smart money’s on Brooklyn foursome The Men.

Led by pedal-obsessed guitarists Nick Chiericozzi and Mark Perro, The Men’s sonic references could swallow the vinyl collection at Hits and Misses whole. If you listen to their songs in isolation, there’s little to unify their genre-sweeping restlessness: “Cube” and “Animal,” both from their excellent 2012 Open Your Heart, are gleeful rompers, tinged with Replacements-esque heartland rock and Dinosaur Jr.’s shred-happy virtuosity. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find smog-thick shoegaze (in the seven-minute epic “If You Leave”), maximalist cro-magnon hardcore (“Think”) and even Sonic Youths trebley guitars (“Oscillation”). It’s like an amphetamine-charged history of new rock music, delivered by art-school punks instead of Alan Cross.

Live, The Men’s schizoid tendencies (and Pitchfork blessings) really start to make sense. Here, the rock-scholar pretensions stop and the punk rock show begins in earnest—behind a fuzzed-out wall of distortion, The Men’s songs reveal themselves for what they really are deep down: sweat-drenched anthems built for slam-dancing, pogoing or, ideally, both. They’ve outshone bigger names in the past—as they did last October, when they opened a sold-out Thee Oh Sees show at the Horseshoe—and it’s a safe bet they’ll be NXNE’s king killers, too.

The details: June 14, 3 p.m. Free. Grasshopper Records, 1167 Dundas St. W. June 14, 1 a.m. Price TBA. Panache showcase. The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St. W. June 15, midnight. Price TBA. Converse City Carnage showcase, Wrongbar, 1279 Queen St. W. Seven-day wristband $50. nxne.com

Other notable NXNE performances: Smith Westerns plays a bonfire at Gibraltar Point, while Bleached plays a booze cruise.