March 9, 2013

Album Review: The Men's New Moon

In a short span of three years and three albums, the Men have gone from being the pin-ups of Brooklyn's new wave of burgeoning noise and hardcore to your dad's latest favorite jam band, but instead of asking "Why?," perhaps we should all be asking ourselves "Why not?" Born inside basements and DIY spaces inside the mecca for blog-hyped indie rock firsts, an up and coming band tearing themselves away from the punk-leaning wall they grew a career from can be a sure-fire way to stick it to early listeners still getting comfortable with their work, yet in an Internet age where all things move faster than we would probably like, the not-so-subtle transformations between the quintet's loud and claustrophobic 2011 sophomore breakthrough Leave Home, last year's garage rock homage Open Your Heart and their latest, a love letter to classic rock, New Moon, don't turn the Men into genre-bending schizophrenics, but rather one of the most well-rounded and free-thinking bands who get the big picture of the rock 'n roll model in 2013.

Open Your Heart can now be considered the writing of the wall to this realization, since there really is no reason why anyone should use the categorizations "punk" or "hardcore" in reference to the Men anymore. There's also no reason to categorize their sound anymore whatsoever. New Moon embellishes their last effort's country corners to the fullest, and so does the story behind the recording of this LP, as the collective holed up in the Catskill Mountains village of Big Indian and turned a shanty space into their home studio for "its technical limitations, 32-hour orbit and predisposal to celestial intervention." You can imagine that copious amounts of mind-altering substances ran through the dudes' bloodstream during this period, as evidenced by the spread of mellow in the soft-swinging opener aptly titled "Open the Door" and the rustic Harvest Moon shining through on "The Seeds" and "High and Lonesome," all being free-falling bar room lullabies composed by the most organically-shaping instruments in a doubling of acoustics, the newly-enlisted fifth man Kevin Faulkner's lap steel guitar, piano bumblings and a set of steady-handed drumming by Mark Perro.

For every moment the Men scale back and chill out on New Moon, they roar back with sprawling rootsy rockers that accentuate them at their best when determinate to grab your ear with a melodious hook. "Half Angel Half Light," "Without a Face," "Electric" and "Freaky" engage the album's immediate intimacy as less restrained and exceptionally more confident extensions of "Open Your Heart"'s furious power-pop, bolstered by fully ignited Petty-esque harmonica whistlings. Meanwhile, bassist, noise auteur and BK's current go-to producer Ben Greenberg's inaugural cuts as an official Men on "The Brass" and "I See No One" provide maybe the only glimpses into the band's early years in that each plays out in a similarly speedy tempoed, high decibel range.

A new era for the Men arises once again on New Moon, yet it'd be a total misnomer at this stage to say any form of predictability is to be expected from the Brooklyn quintet whenever it is we hear from them next. In the pop industry, Rihanna or Katy Perry upgrade themselves to the latest models annually based on stylistic trends to ensure continued brand awareness, and while it's not to say by any means the Men's latest effort will eventually lead them down the path of topping the iTunes charts -- world tour and limited 3-D engagement in tow (although, that would be awesome) -- it's more telling here than it was on Open Your Heart that engaging their guitar-pealing catharsis with different audiences is what continuously works to their benefit every single time. In the chronically label-obsessed underbelly of indie rock where genre buzz equates to marketability, the frequency of which the Men change theirs wisely manages to avoid any discussion of that, instead zoning in on how their great handling of rock transcends it.

The Men's New Moon is available now on Sacred Bones Records.

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