Describing what The Men have accomplished over the past four years defies quite a bit of reason. While most rockers are out relentlessly touring, only pausing for the briefest of moments every eighteen months to put out a record, The Men align themselves most closely with West Coast garage rock song factory Ty Segall. New Moon marks The Men’s fourth LP in as many years. While it may not top the blistering mastery of last year’s Open Your Heart, New Moon offers new and exciting spectra for The Men to occupy, ranging from prog-punk to fuzzy alt-country, nary a breath in between it all.
Such stylistic variety could have been expected from the band. Open Your Heart was rife with adventures in sonic expansion, just like band breakout Leave Home before it. There was the mystic-psych freakout “Presence” or AM radio staple “Candy” on Open Your Heart, the techy-rock “Night Landing” on Leave Home.
The formula, if one were to reduce such arm reaching sonic ambition to a specific noun, holds on New Moon, with even more movement out to the fringes. Instead of healthy doses of the unrelenting garage ragers that made the band famous to buoy the more esoteric experiments in form, New Moon enjoys fucking with listeners ears as to where if might go next.
Noise-y rockers that might recall former apexes instead two step subtly toward pop-rock, whether it be the psych-y “Half Angel” or the penultimate “Freaky.” Blasts of squawking overdrive get a chain-then-release meter from pulsating punk bass on “Without a Face.” Then, just when “High and Lonesome” lulls the listener into believing that this country-fried version of The Men might be what they’re getting this time around, “The Brass” and “Electric” mutilate the calmed ear into a bloody Leave Home-era pulp. It might be easy for most bands to say “we don’t care what everyone thinks of us,” but very few prove it as solidly in their album sequencing as The Men.
With this driving out to the edges of its creative landmass, The Men also discover just how it feels to be on both sides of the rock spectrum, nowhere more apparent than on the album’s opener, “Open the Door,” and its closer, “Supermoon.” “Open the Door” sports a gorgeous organ and piano section, accompanied by slide and acoustic guitar, nary an ounce of fuzz to be had. Hell, the song very nearly treads into sing-songiness through its middle half. One might expect The Men to go back to the easy listening well to palate cleanse after the onslaught of dissonant sequencing that is New Moon, their sure to be divisive newest record. But “Supermoon” is the heaviest The Men have sounded yet, riff-stacked and armed to the teeth with blistering solos to careen the album off a cliff to close. Listening to just those two songs represents exactly the synthesis that The Men have brought to punk rock, yet it would be a minor miracle for an uninformed observer to guess that both songs were by the same band. Not inconsequently The Men is a much bigger beast this time around, having added a mandolin and piano to their mix.
This unrelenting cognitive dissonance makes it slightly difficult to interpret exactly what the members of The Men want the band to be. Open Your Heart was a clear evocation of thematic purpose, tied together, albeit loosely, under the umbrella of ambitious garage rock. While New Moon still might fit this moniker, the umbrella is expanding to slightly unwieldy proportions. New Moon has some of the best music The Men have ever produced, yet it feels just slightly divorced from the band’s already manic aesthetic. While the lyrical and thematic purposes are clear enough (this is the band’s psych-themed record), the reason for such auditory mania remains undiscovered.
Yet when the cards are on the table, The Men arms New Moon with more powerful guitar based rock flavor than anything outside of Ty Segall, who really appears now to be the band’s only qualitative and quantitative challenger. New Moon may not be stronger, or even equal to, last year’s Open Your Heart, yet it’s auditory ADD is more pleasing than almost anything The Men’s peers are putting out today.
The Men – New Moon tracklist:
- “Open the Door”
- “Half Angel Half Light”
- “Without a Face”
- “The Seeds”
- “I Saw Her Face”
- “High and Lonesome”
- “The Brass”
- “I See No One”
- “Bird Song”