The Men

Tomorrow's Hits

Written by: TL on 26/03/2014 17:30:09

The Men are a band people are talking about, and unbeknownst to me have been talking about for at least around three years. My attention must have been occupied elsewhere (which annoys me), but since forming in 2008 the plainly named Brooklyn quintet has already made it to their fifth full length album, making a change from the suffocating noise-rock of their first two albums "Immaculada" and "Leaving Home" to venture out into more forthcoming experiments with surf, country and classic americana on the latest three albums, which now includes the recently released "Tomorrow's Hits" - an album which is likely to be the first stop for any newcomers aiming to check the band out prior to this summer's Roskilde Festival appearance.

The story of "Tomorrow's Hits" is the story of wanting to have the tone of lost decades' rock'n'roll coursing through eight songs that disregard expectations the way only a hip 2014 indie-punk group can. The vocals, which at least three of the bandmembers contribute to, are tugged into the mix evenly alongside the instruments, giving them a down-played presence that lets you know that this is not a band that wants to make typically radio-relevant rock. Opener "Dark Waltz" sounds like Bob Dylan crooning casually over a Creedence Clearwater Revival instrumental backdrop which isn't in too much of a hurry to wind its way through an oldschool guitar and harmonica solo, and shortly after, at track three we find perhaps the album's highlight in "Another Night" whose steady beat, syncopated chords and saxophone solo are so Springsteen it hurts, albeit in a version that sounds like "local indie band paying tribute to the boss" and noticeably lacks the charisma of the real deal.

And that's sort of the issue I have with "Tomorrow's Hits". Granted The Men commit musically, by launching their songs with sudden energy, committing to a groove and sticking by it to the end - I wouldn't mind slightly more twists to my songwriting personally, but I can respect that. What sort of unhooks me is that it sounds like they're just toying around with these elements without really lending them a whole lot of personality. The unhinged tempo, the key sound and the late screams of a song like "Different Days" is pretty cool in a way that's similar to what Titus Andronicus did on "The Monitor", but it never makes a similarly deep impact - the kind which makes you want to delve deeper and find out what's up with this band.

Similar things can be said of the almost Chuck Berry-esque all out romp of "Pearly Gates", but a song like the piano jangling "Sleepless" feels straight up throwaway, which gives me the feeling that without full-on energy, The Men don't have many cards of their own to play. They're simply borrowing recognition factor through elements past legends have established in the American rock'n'roll tradition for them. And revisiting those tones are still good enough for cosy background listening (which seems to me a staple of hip music, stuff you can find "cool" through its style without having to really take interest in the songs) but if I'm honest, if seems to me that even if you dressed them up with Dylan's harmonica and Springsteen's denim vest, The Men would still look as plain and unambitious as their name, which prompts me to ask; Fair enough, this doesn't suck, but what do these guys bring to this that I should listen for, instead of just listening to the good old real thing?

Download: Another Night, Different Days, Pearly Gates
For The Fans Of: Titus Andronicus, Cloud Nothings, Japandroids

Release date 04.03.2014
Sacred Bones

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