The Men, “L.A.D.O.C.H.”
Have you ever seen E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten?
You should, if you can see it in a theater, you really should. Though it is very hard to watch! Shot on low-grade high-contrast black-and-white film stock and pushed so far in processing that grain has overtaken image, the wordless movie reads as squirming Rorschach blotch. The entire plot, as remembered from a screening at the old Thalia Soho a couple decades back: It opens on a masked, gorey mess of a figure splayed on a throne. A masked woman comes along, and — this may be hardcore, or not; again, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re seeing — grabs the dead monster’s member and brings it to climax, pushes its seed inside her. She swells pregnant, births and abandons a twitching, terrified, man-sized humanoid. And for the next hour we follow that thing as it quivers and crawls over a barren landscape. It is adopted/worshipped/attacked by a staff-wielding, burlap-obscured tribe. There is filth and rape and mutilation, there is the brutal, primal agony of having to go on and on.
It’s the sort of movie where the dead monster is listed in the credits as “God Killing Himself” and the woman as “Mother Earth” and where the credit for “story consultant” elicits giggles, and it would seem pretentious and unforgivable if the project did not hold you hostage for an hour and so successfully convince you that its pulsing, unrecognizable document had come from some otherworldly place to communicate the pain of existence itself.
(If you find Begotten on the internet — and of course it is there — do not watch it on the internet. On the internet, it’s just another distraction, and just another thing from which to be distracted.)
Have you heard The Men’s Leave Home? You really should. It’s not as hard on the listener to as the track above might suggest! One of the joys of the record is that, while forging a core identity and invoking connection to certain strains of its home town’s rock music, the New York City band surprises you with different moods and textures from track to track; one of the joys of the record is that there is indeed some joy in there.
Here I am, defending one of my favorite albums of this year from the song I selected out of it.
Nothing else on Leave Home quite resembles “L.A.D.O.C.H.” but it defines the record for me; I dread the song’s arrival, wallow in it when it comes. Vocalist Chris Hansell isn’t committed so much as captured. It’s less performance than deed. The bald trauma of delivery mixes with nebulous declaration (Is it “The bringer of everything, Nothing, is here to stay?” “The bringer of everything/nothing is here to stay?” Please no one ever tell me.) to create something wounded and incurable, immolative and without end, something immediately identifiable and impossible to articulate. There is a moment you hear Hansell cough something up and you are able to taste it.