Friday, December 6, 2013

MEN and How it Makes Us Look

How does one review MEN? Quiet Marauder's four-disc, 111-track debut album is immune to all the usual tactics; a short summary couldn't possibly do it justice, while any attempt to properly plumb its murky depths is doomed to fall tragically short. It would take a 10,000 word dissertation to really get to the bottom of it.

So here's what I'm going to do. The following paragraph will be the quick review, a 'long story short' version that Metacritic can quote from if they so desire (I'll even give it a rating!). That way, those of you without much time on your hands can see what I thought of MEN without having to scroll too far down. Once that's out of the way, I'm going to dig a little deeper and take a look at just how accurate the album is as a portrayal of the male psyche.

Okay, ready? Short review time! MEN is a treasure trove of odd little songs, and having it on your iPod ensures that a smile is never far away (slightly insane though that smile may be). The first two volumes in particular are positively packed with goodies; the third disc is, for me, a bit less interesting (although it still has its moments) and disc four is a satisfyingly unhinged conclusion to the whole thing. It's no 69 Love Songs (what is?) but the catchy tunes and the lunatic ambition on show here make for a very, very enjoyable journey. 8/10

Oh and the best two songs from each disc are as follows:
  • Jogging Girl and It Wasn't Me, It Was The Moon (Volume 1)
  • Impressive and If We Were Playas (Volume 2)
  • I'm Beau Brummell And I'm Just Dandy and Everyone's Gone (Leslie Grantham's Back in Boyard) (Volume 3)
  • This Is Not A War and Welcome Home, Quiet Marauder (Volume 4)

Okay? Now we're all going to watch a nice video, and then the people in a rush can be on their way while the rest of us really get down to business.

Every track on MEN offers a little peek into what we men are like. And what do these 111 shards of the male brain actually say about us? All sorts of things! Impressive is all about feeling utterly heroic in every banal, piffling task you perform, and I'm Beau Brummell... deals with the desire to live in the most decadent, extravagant way possible, even if it does land you in a heap of debt.

And then there are the more obvious male topics, as seen in Jogging Girl. The song's protagonist gets stuck in a traffic jam, but serendipitously, the gridlock is moving just quickly enough for him to keep up with (and ogle) an attractive female jogger on the pavement.

But if every track is supposed to be a reflection of the male mind, what's the deal with tracks like It's Kicked In (in which the narrator arms himself with an imaginary popcorn gun and goes on a hallucinogenic-fuelled shooting spree before nobly topping himself) and Humanity's Final Hour (in which most of the human race is destroyed by space robots)? I'd imagine that many men have let their eyes linger on a bottom for slightly too long like the chap in Jogging Girl, but how many of us have done battle with zombie horses or been abducted by killer aliens? In what sense are these songs related to MEN's overarching concept?

Well, I have a theory about that. I think that, at least to some extent, MEN is an album about taking the strange little thoughts we have and inflating them to ludicrous, surreal, and often quite scary proportions. This Is Not A War is, at its heart, just a song about feeling threatened by other men who look at your girlfriend; it just so happens that the man in this particular song deals with those feelings by murdering everyone. Similarly, I hope that very few of the men reading this have ever taken a girl to the woods and murdered her, but the events of It Wasn't Me, It Was The Moon only happen because the guy wants to "examine those cotton pants". It's lust, as felt by most people over a certain age, but not necessarily to such homicidal extents.

I initially felt like I couldn't relate to the songs on disc three because I've never had the kind of druggy experience described in songs like It's Kicked In. However, I have watched hours and hours of TV and drained many a glass of Malibu & Coke, and these (relatively) innocuous pleasures aren't so different to full-blown drug crises if you balloon them up enough. I've never committed a passion murder, either, but I can still kind of identify with songs like It Wasn't Me, It Was The Moon.

So, to return to the question at hand, how does MEN make men look? Odd, distorted, and funny-frightening; this album is a house of mirrors that gives a cartoonish, exaggerated representation of its subject matter while simultaneously getting it absolutely dead-on.

One more thing (thanks for reading this far!) I've already mentioned my eight favourites, but I must give special mention to track #111: Welcome Home, Quiet Marauder. Even if you didn't care for the 110 tracks that preceded it - even if, by this point, you're checking the QM website for gigs that you can attend so as to spit on them in person - I'd wager that you'll still find this last hurrah to be rather rousing.

Seriously, it's the most perfect closing track I've heard in a good long while. Kudos, QM!

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