Review Summary: Torn between two worlds
Because of their sheer consistency, The Men make for a particularly interesting case study. At a rate of one album per year for four years, they’ve progressed to become quasi-indie-darlings more akin to Dinosaur Jr. while still striving to satisfy their abrasive, ear-gouging, noise-rock roots. It’s no coincidence that the below stream is brought to you by Pitchfork. New Moon
marks what I believe is the first departure from their usual album cover template, as well. This isn’t particularly indicative of the record, as New Moon
is a predictable direction into this “eclectic” territory given Open Your Heart
’s questionable leanings, but this might be the record that officially severs their ties with their noise-rock past, for better or worse.
Nothing about New Moon
, and something tells me that that this wasn’t their aim, anyway. They’ve always been a band that aims for sheer power, and have always been successful under this approach, whether with Immaculada
ks-given manner or the more deliberate, restrained energy of Leave Home
. They’re still throwing punches to your gut, and they’re mixing in even more melody these days, but the product sounds infinitely more calculated than the anarchic chaos of Immaculada
. It’s a quality that’s all the more digestible, but all the less striking. Personally, this creates a tear in my opinion. I have respect (and an absolute affinity) for The Men’s ability to craft fresh, melody-heavy tunes like the clean, catchy brazenness of “Please Don’t Go Away,” but the album gets tiring when the band couples this with their abrasive approach too much -- it feels a little forced and insincere.
The first two tracks are the most indicative of their departure (or continuation, depending on how one views it) of sound. “Open The Door” exhibits the same half-paced twang as “Country Song” from Open Your Heart
, and “Half Angel Half Light” adds a weirdly upbeat, psychedelic-tinged chorus to the mix. Does it work? In short - a tentative yes. Given the context though, I can’t help but feel their strongest moments come much later in the album, from scorching, dissonant “Brass” with its muffled guitars and aptly-titled “The Electric” with its energetic, rock-and-roll approach. We see more of this eclecticism later from inclusions like the harmonica in “Bird Song,” but always it feels more like variety for variety’s sake as opposed to the sincere power approach that allows The Men to excel. As always, expert songwriting is a main draw, as the New Yorkers combine their ability to furness unrestrained energy with moments that manage to both highlight it and take it to new heights, like the dynamic bridge in “The Brass.” The quality is reminiscent of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock
- stylistically, not sonically- and I mean that in the best way possible.
I felt similarly about Open Your Heart
, but was eventually won over by the band’s newfound handle over melody and catchiness. New Moon
is another effort that tries to blend The Men’s noisy dissonance with melodic lovability, but it’s more tired on this second try. One’s gotta respect the continued ability of The Men to naturally blend the harsh and the vanilla so seamlessly, but it’s difficult not to wish the band would return to their boisterous roots.