If there was ever any doubt that 5 Rue Christine was close to cornering the nonsensical, spastic art-punk market, this Men's Recovery Project retrospective will push them over the top, deep into anti-trust territory. While fledgling labels like Not Not Fun are churning out piles of goofy 5RC knockoffs, nothing out there comes close to the mighty triumvirate of Deerhoof, The Mae Shi and Men's Recovery Project. The latter's place at the top of the heap was in question before, but with this hour-long, forty song album, there is now no doubt that these gents are either (a) geniuses of musical absurdity or (b) completely bonkers. Either way, listening The Very Best of Men's Recovery Project
is one of the most pleasantly ridiculous ways you could hope to spend an afternoon.
One of the most surprising things to learn about the mysterious boys of Men's Recovery project is that one of their members is Sam McPheeters, former frontman of the legendary '90s hardcore outfit Born Against. While some of McPheeters' vocal work, especially during the end of that band's life, approached comic madness, Born Against were always firmly rooted in anger and disappointment. To hear this icon hollering over a tinny drum machine and a buzzing synth in "Vote Fraud on the Moon Base" is cathartic beyond belief; there will always be reasons to be furious, but sometimes absurdist comedy is necessary therapy.
This is the angle from which Men's Recovery Project approach all their songs. Their tunes sound like music that has come apart at the hinges -- all the nuts and bolts have been blasted out, the pieces have scattered, reassembled, sped up, eaten by a robot and shat out into your CD player. Most of the songs feature ridiculously cheap drum machines and horrific synthesizer programming. The music's simplicity is similar to Wesley Willis's work, but where Willis's songs all sounded exactly the same, each of these tunes sound like nothing you've heard before. Many bands could give their songs a cute name like "Get Your Dick out of My Food", but it would no doubt be about corporate thievery or some such nonsense. Men's Recovery Project have a song called "Get Your Dick out of My Food" and it is about a guy who wants someone's dick out of his food. Why? Because it ruins the flavor.
Attempting to describe Men's Recovery Project is an exercise in futility. You can describe the ingredients -- early '80s drum machines, one-note synth lines, chunky guitars, robot voices, and a chorus of screaming madmen -- but the experience of hearing them combined defies language, especially in a forty song succession. Somewhere in that forty-track mass is a song called "Couch", a short story about a couch that lives, gives birth, dies and is carried off by Puerto Ricans. "Get the Fuck Out of My Office" features a female robot voice confronting a male robot voice for going through her things. Many of the songs, like "Why We Are Lazy", give the promise of a straight punk song, with McPheeters screaming in top form, then decaying into electronic and vocal orgiastic blobbiness. This is music gone over the edge and back, over-stimulated, burned out on anger, and proficient with a drum machine.