Life’s Half Price


If you don’t know MEN, well, you should. They are a hell of a fun band who also have lots of  important things to say. Above is my photo of lead singer JD Samson cleverly dressed up for a Halloween show as SNL’s gender-ambiguous character Pat. If you don’t remember It’s Pat! the movie, the entire joke was that nobody could tell if Pat was male or female, and it’s a clever costume because Samson is a gender-ambiguous person. Actually, to the best of my knowledge, Samson is a female bodied “gender outlaw” (her term) who just happens to have a mustache. That’s not the point, although I know that’s generally the first question that comes up regarding JD Samson. The point is, Samson is a former member of Le Tigre, and MEN’s music is an excellent post-millennial next chapter of Le Tigre’s legacy. To refresh your memory, Le Tigre was Kathleen Hanna’s more polished and pop-friendly project after Bikini Kill. In the early 90’s Hanna became one of her generation’s most visible and outspoken feminist voices, but although Bikini Kill did a great job opening up a cultural dialogue about women’s issues and providing ample inspiration for young women to vent their feelings through wild creativity, their abrasive sound was not designed to appeal to anything but a narrow niche audience. They recalled the Sex Pistols in their inability to play their instruments, and Hanna’s high pitched singing could be downright Ono-esque. It was not a group built to last. Le Tigre took the same message of feminism and empowerment and added better production values, catchier tunes, and more stylish outfits. Unfortunately, the group disbanded when Hanna developed health problems that left her unable to perform. After that, JD Samson formed the trio MEN, and their work has been very much in keeping with Le Tigre’s spirit, although it may not instantly sound like it. Their music is high-energy electropop, relentlessly catchy and designed for dancing. But with lyrical depth. Samson writes songs that deal with women’s and queer issues in a snarky, humorous way. Where in the past much of what we’ve labeled ‘feminist music’ (Bikini Kill, Tori Amos, Sinead O’Connor, etc) has been angry, confessional, explicitly honest, painful and cathartic, MEN represents a new wave of female (and queer) driven music that focuses more on positive empowerment; assertion of personal strength; solidarity; and identity confidence; and makes a point of exploring those things in a joyful, celebratory way. Because, although the feminist movement still has an long uphill battle to fight, the last thing we need is to allow the negative side to drain the joy and humor out of us.

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