(Sacred Bones Records, out now)
This seventh album from The Men has been released to coincide with their tenth anniversary. In that time the Brooklyn band have had an interesting musical evolution. Initially, they were very much in the NYC garage-punk mould, as evidenced on their breakout album Leave Home. Since then though, beginning with the release of their 2012 effort Open Your Heart, they have gone in various different directions incorporating such diverse elements as country rock, surf rock, doo-wop and Americana.
This effort is similarly eclectic in terms of the sheer variety of genres the band tip their hat to and the album covers a lot of ground in its svelte 35 minute running time. While the ambition of this is entirely admirable it does lead to a general lack of cohesion, with the record seeming more like a random collection of individual songs than a considered whole. We skip from genre to genre with no real rhyme nor reason.
That said, the songs themselves are for the most part decent with the exception of album closer Come to Me, a lightweight folksy effort that fails to go anywhere. Things certainly start promisingly enough with Maybe I’m Crazy, a synth heavy stomper of a track, complete with half whispered/half hysterical vocals, that is clearly indebted to the early 80s No Wave scene. As will become a theme after that, we then dive in a totally different direction with the blissed out dreaminess of When I Held You In My Arms.
The latter’s strong 60s flavour, however, gives us one of the album’s few connecting threads. Secret Light (Doors-y vibe with Beefheartian undertones and one of the album’s highlights), Rose on Top of the World (Jangle pop with laconic Lou Reed-style vocals) and Final Prayer (A Velvets-esque dirge) also give off a vibe of that particular decade.
Of the remaining tracks both So High and Sleep are country numbers. The former is more of an Americana road-trip song, the latter a hauntingly atmospheric semi-instrumental track with mostly ghostly chants for vocals. Lastly there is Killed Someone, the only track that harks back to the group’s original sound – a pure punk rock attack. all fuzz-box guitars and distorted vocals. It even has a chant-along chorus for good measure.
With this album The Men deliver a rag-tag of songs traversing all the styles of music they have covered to date. It makes for a listen equally enthralling and frustrating.