Friday, 15 March 2013

The Men - New Moon

The Men released their coming out third album Open Your Heart in 2012. Before that, their debut album Immaculada made its way in 2010 and the follow-up Leave Home in 2011. Nick Chiericozzi's men have been released an album every year since starting out, and their fourth album New Moon is the latest edition of Brooklyn punk rock for 90s kids. It's understandable being sceptical before listening to The Men. With a name so simple and second to a Californian pop punk band, you can understand why people would be shy. No matter how many times it's said, Open Your Heart is a fantastic album and deserves your attention for three quarters of an hour. One year on and The Men have the follow-up, but they don't have the answer we're looking for.

Tom Petty is an influence on New Moon. A band that surfaced out of a dirty abrasive sound and noise rock scene incorporated signs of maturity and variety on their third album Open Your Heart. This sound has been developed for New Moon, influenced by Petty and Neil Young - acoustic, stripped back but still rooted in rock. New Moon is stripped back to its raw basics, with Americana instruments featuring over guitar feedback. This doesn't happen to many noise rock bands, and it's an interesting listen once you get past the ear-value of The Men.

New Moon opens with a chirpy number called "Open the Door", a strong piano track which builds in to a ballad. This instrument focus is a welcomed change from abrasive guitars, but they've not lost all forms of noise. The production isn't perfect and their vocals still sound poor, however it's hard to improve four voices and harmonise them when they're clearly lacking depth. "Half Angel Half Life" starts strong, with pace and loud percussion. The electric guitar is almost silent, and the acoustic instruments take charge. There are moments of wah-wah effects and organ drones, powerful structures and time signature changes.

The New York five piece really come into their own with the 10th track "Bird Song". The harmonica meets the piano and the backing electric guitar and the structural direction all point towards one artist, Bob Dylan. This is exactly the kind of instrumental Dylan needed with last year's Tempest. This folk-rock style is great to hear when many bands are going down a synthesizer route. The Men must be praised for their innovative approach and tricky decision to follow-up Open Your Heart with such a stripped back album. "High and Lonesome" is similar, with a slide guitar reminiscent of Young's Harvest period. It's a relaxing track just under the three minute mark and acts as a musical break for the few moments The Men retain from 2011. "The Brass" is a heavy, fast paced punk track. It's followed by the incredible "Electric". All hands are on deck and the electric guitars are at full volume. Finally The Men retain their early aspects without the personal quality of acoustic instrumentation. They sound like a worked up Clinic, with a desire to kick ass.

That three track segment in the middle has been chosen by The Men to be their gripping section on New Moon. Where many bands alienate albums with what is usually mediocrity, The Men have done the opposite. The penultimate track "Freaky" adds to the noisy rock heard on the final part of the noise trilogy "I See No One". When listening to The Men, it's easy to pin point differences between albums, and New Moon is their easiest album to read. "The Seeds" is my personal favourite on New Moon because of the simplistic obscure drum pattern and instrumental structure that's The Shaggs-esque.

New Moon isn't a new era for The Men. They still bolster the same features as they did on 2011's Leave Home. They have developed as musicians and four years can do a whole load of good with inspiration and musical taste, that's where we find the heart and soul of all The Men's albums. They've been gradually moving further and further away from post-hardcore. The quartet is still with Sacred Bones Records, and it will stay that way as long as they have the means to deliver on and off the album. The Men have mellowed out, but not entirely. It's not as if New Moon is lacking in abrasive material or punk, because it's not. New Moon ends with the eight minute long "Supermoon", a sign that The Men are not giving up on their morals, but are in fact taking it to the next level. It's a sharp contrast to the campfire opener, the opposite of The Men's four album career. The Men have released four albums in as many years, and the quality is there on every album. 


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