You da Men!
Sacred Bones, 2013
8.7 / 10
On their last album, Open Your Heart, The Men dropped a few directional hints at where their music could go in the future. Heavily cited as their country song, “Candy” showed another facet, extending past bawdy rock. Open Your Heart featured plenty of that as well — several of the album’s ten tracks were devoted to instrumental workouts. If that was a way of appeasing longtime fans of the band, I only hope that they will bring an open mind to The Men’s fourth official album, and the one that’s probably the most defining of their career.
Marking their fourth album in four years, the title New Moon, suggests a new creative turn for the band or maybe they’re just fans of teen vampire movies. Instead of balls-to-the-wall rock dominating the album’s bulkier 12 song track list, there are some honest-to-God folky, country-tinged jam songs, likely to give listeners whiplash at just how GOOD they are. The change in sound could be due to an atmospheric shift. For New Moon’s recording, the band left Brooklyn for the sanctuary of Big Indian, New York, turning a house into a studio. The group also added friend and producer Ben Greenberg to the band as their bassist while Kevin Faulkner was also brought back.
Sticking to that new mentality and stronger appreciation for rootsier rock, the band ventured instrumentally; incorporating piano, mandolin, and harmonica. But before I oversell this album as a folk effort, there’s plenty of The Men’s tried-and-true sludgy, genre-bending rock. The album’s closer and arguably strongest song, “Supermoon”, is a no frills 8 minute monster truck derby, decimating everything that’s come before it. And with that statement, I feel as if I’m underselling the ferocity of New Moon’s closer.
The influences behind the album sound like a hazy swirl of Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr. When the songs are straight rock like the unfathomable rock tornado, “Without a Face”, they recall the likes of the underrated but adored Screaming Trees. The same argument could be made about “I Saw Her Face”, but the mood is more introspective and reflective of J. Mascis’ fronted troupe. Among its sprawling meatiness, there aren’t feelings of anger, just lots of stuff on the noggin. They tend to work those thoughts out in a jam band fashion.
The album’s recording has a live aesthetic about it. At times it doesn’t sound as if they’re enclosed by any building as the band belts their voices through the mountain air, affected by the altitude. “If less is more / Then what’s in store”, is sung on “Without A Face”. Is this a rhetorical question for the band; a comment on New Moon’s stripped down execution? If this is prelude of what’s to come from this seemingly updated version of The Men, then I’m anxiously awaiting next year and a likely fifth album.
Purchase: The Men – New Moon