Midweek Fuzz: Crystal Shipsss, The Men, Ghost Wave

It’s Wednesday and, let’s face it, you need a jolt of something—no, not more caffeine, you’ve inflated that corner Starbucks’ profit margins enough as it is. Maybe try some down and dirty fuzz-rock instead?

First up is the easily Googled band Crystal Shipsss, a one-man lo-fi noise-pop outfit hailing from Denmark. His sophomore album, Dirty Dancer, is a splintered and scouring affair that straddles the dark minimalism of synth-punk duo Suicide and a more traditionally psychedelic guitar distortion—“Lost” is a fine example.
 

 
Then there’s The Men, who earlier this year released the highly jammable New Moon. They return in October with the Campfire Songs EP, tracks resulting from the same productive recording session in upstate New York. They’re all acoustic, having actually been recorded around a campfire, but are no less fuzzed-out for it.
 

Today, however, sees the release of New Zealand band Ghost Wave’s debut LP, Ages, on the venerable Flying Nun label. This is a record with all the nifty pedals and heavy riffs you so sorely need, with the addictive tunefulness we’ve come to expect from down under. Take a listen to rave-up album closer “Orb,” and turn it up so the neighbors can hear.
 

The Men At Work

Good lord, four albums in four years? The Men’s feverish work ethic and dogged insistence on the value of their ensemble design is certainly making it look extra awkward that Women, a largely unsung Calgary band, may have broken up due to an onstage fight at a concert in 2010. Okay, politically incorrect joke over.

What I meant to say is that The Men’s fourth album, for Brooklyn label Sacred Bones, which has nearly cornered the market on that borough’s spacey, spooky, sprawling and spiffy rock music, arrives on March 5. It’s called New Moon and some of it is just too catchy to be believed.

For now, take a pass at “Electric,” a track deep in the running order that nonetheless could never be mistaken for filler, which The Men don’t seem to do. Instead it’s a hard-charging rush of punk guitar that could’ve slayed at CGBG’s if the place still existed. Guess I may have to cross the East River at some point after all.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Pitchfork Recap: The Clouds Part for Sunday’s Jams

Finally: a day in which the weather wasn’t actively working against us. Well, other than the fact that it was 95 degrees, which after two days of rain and heavy foot traffic led to Union Park smelling like the world’s most depressing petting zoo. Nevertheless, if you’re going to spend the day at an outdoor festival, “hot” beats “rainy” ten times out of ten. And as long as you followed John Dwyer’s (of Thee Oh Sees) advice to “stay hydrated, goddamn it”, it was a solid day to catch some great performances from Milk Music, Thee Oh Sees, The Field, and The Men. Oh, and Lady Gaga was there, if that’s your thing.

Best Set: The Men
Near the beginning of The Men’s set, someone in the crowd kept shouting, “Play some Springsteen!” at the band. It’s unclear if this was meant sincerely or as a joke, but a little bit of The Boss wouldn’t have sounded out of place. From the moment in their sound check when they played the opening riff to Van Halen’s “Jump” to the end of their outstanding set, the Brooklyn four-piece seemed like they were on a mission to prove that all of those people who say Pitchfork doesn’t care about rock music anymore don’t know what they’re talking about. They even had one person skanking! (Maybe he thought he was going to see Mustard Plug and just decided to roll with it? Whatever. He was happy, so right on, buddy.) The audience-led clap-along to “Open Your Heart” was just the cherry on top of an awesome performance.

Biggest Surprise: Araabmusik
This was more of the bad kind of surprise, but I’ll take some of the blame for it. My familiarity with Araabmusik stems exclusively from from last year’s fantastic Electric Dream album, which was closer to the house music genre. I was unprepared, then,  for his brostep-heavy set that evening. To his credit, he’s certainly a lot more fun to watch than most DJs, as he constructs songs on the fly by pounding on his MPC at speeds that seem almost superhuman. But in the end, my low tolerance for wub-wubs beat out my fascination with his technique. Kudos to whomever scheduled him before Beach House, though, as that is a Pitchfork Festival trainwreck transition for the ages.

Biggest Disappointment: the stage assignments
I’m sure there’s some kind of logic to who plays where at Pitchfork, but I’ll never understand it. For example, Thee Oh Sees drew twice as big a crowd as Iceage, yet they were relegated to the smaller Blue stage. The same thing happened on Friday with Japandroids, though in their case I wonder if it was a conscious decision to make sure the crowd was bananas. This is a nit-picky complaint, I know, but it would be nice if more established acts got to play on the bigger stages, since they’re more than likely going to bring in more people. Sure, it was nice being able to watch Thee Oh Sees and The Men in the shade at the Blue Stage, but I’d be willing to stand in the sun a little bit if it meant more people got the chance to actually see the bands they wanted.

Dumps, Dives, & Holes: The Men Play Shea Stadium

It’s been an odd Halloween weekend. With Saturday’s freak snowstorm, and Halloween falling on a Monday, people seem a bit confused. When to go out, how much to dress up, which night constitutes the night, how to alter a costume to handle thick, wet snow. These questions have left people in a daze, scattering the night into a four day crawl, congregating at small venues or bars, but devoid of any focal events.

This is how I ended up at The Men show on Saturday, dressed like an exaggerated version of myself covered in glitter. After wandering between empty bars through half-frozen puddles in the East Village, we saw the Manhattan night drift out desolately before us, and decided to hop in a cab to Shea Stadium, a Bushwick warehouse venue where our friend’s band The Men was playing.

Shea Stadium is located on the second floor of some sort of old factory, above the always-vacant Meadow Sreet. Inside, there is for some reason an underwater theme. The walls are the color blue and make you think of water, though water’s never really that color. A large swordfish is plaqued on the wall opposite the stage, which is surrounded by cardboard shark teeth that come down from the ceiling and jut up in front of the band. A stagnant disco ball hangs in the center of the room, and found, patterned couches line the perimeter. The lights are blue and green, and it’s always so full of cigarette smoke that a haze separates you from whatever’s around. Usually, it’s all a bit suffocating, but on Saturday, it felt good knowing how cold it was outside.

We arrived during The Men’s Canadian opener, Sex Church. They were okay. It was obvious they were trying to emulate the stereotypical Brooklyn sound, but missing the mark as they aren’t from around here. It was very teenage sounding, almost like the Warlocks, going for that hollow, droney, late nineties sound. They moved through tempos without really changing much, and all the sounds they made existed on the same plane regardless of speed. It wasn’t bad, just average, which might be worse. Jared Jones, a friend who frequents these shows and has a generally correct opinion, felt differently. "This band sounds like the start of an inevitable influx of bands trying desperately to hop on this noisy Sacred Bones thing, but get it totally wrong," he told me. "This band heard every other band and tried, but suck shit. This song fucking sucks. This song is every Brooklyn band’s song; a big formless stew."

Regardless, the crowd loved it, jumping around and bumping into one another. They filed off, and a little later, The Men came on, with singer Chris Hansell wearing my friend’s blonde Marilyn Monroe wig. An unwarranted, apprehensive mosh pit broke out, typical at these shows—a bunch of indie kids that probably just moved here experiencing fast music and mistaking it for punk. They were dressed in various stages of obscure and poorly executed costumes (in the typical Brooklyn fashion of obscure, poorly executed ideas), throwing each other around the room to a happy song. But at least they seemed to genuinely enjoy the band.

The Men were fun, as always. They’re a little less rough sounding than they used to be, but they’ve been getting bigger lately, and that tends to happen when a band begins gaining notoriety. Beers flew around the crowd, and the set went by quickly, which is usually a good sign. People fucking loved it.

After the show, in the band room to the left of the stage, I ripped up a Keystone Ice 30 box and borrowed a sharpie from the door guy to do a five and five interview with Chris Hansell. The theme: five things you like about New York and five things you hate. Here they are. Hate: Getting a phone call. You missed the show. The Charleston. Manhattan. "What time are you playing?" Like: Brooklyn. Good beer. St. Vitus. Record Grouch. A free sandwich.

So, that was the show. It wasn’t very Halloween-ish, but it was a good time.