By Nick Mattos, PQ MonthlyIn today's New Music Monday, we introduce you to the retro-leaning americana-punk of The Men. What happens when punk rockers go camping and only bring Creedence Clearwater Revival albums to listen to? This seemed to be precisely the situation that occurred with Brooklyn-based act The Men. Their first two albums (2010's Immaculada and 2011's Leave Home) garnered the band critical praise for their highly abrasive noise rock sound. Then, 2012's Open Your Heart dropped, and people started wondering where the country- and surf-rock influences were coming from, but weren't too worried as their ears still hurt a bit after a listen to the album. Then came 2013's New Moon, and everyone did a double-take. Jason Heller of A.V. Club puts New Moon in context, explaining why the album has proven to be both acclaimed by new fans of the Men and polarizing to the old guard:
The groupâ€™s first two albums,Â ImmaculadaÂ andÂ Leave Home, erected a nearly inscrutable blur of hardcore-meets-shoegaze esoterica, one that rendered The Men some sort of faceless, mystique-shrouded cabal of noiseniks. Then came last yearâ€™sÂ Open Your Heart, which ripped open the curtain to reveal a much more quotidian gathering of Men: a bunch of beer-doused dudes who play punchy, sloppy rock songs unafraid to grunt or gush. WithÂ New Moon, its fourth album, the group has introduced a new interpretation of The Men: fine, upstanding, face-forward members of the songwriting community...Â New MoonÂ bobs on a grassy, easygoing Americana vibe. The albumâ€™s best track, â€œBird Song,â€ is also its most telling. Slathered in harmonica, chunky piano, and queasy slide guitar, itâ€™s packed with hooks, boot-shuffling beats, and wine-drinking-with-friends sentimentality. In sound and essence, it evokes another generically named outfit: The Band. If thatâ€™s the route the group is headed down, itâ€™ll be interesting to see what The Men might come to mean in the future. For now, though,Â New MoonÂ stands as it is: a homey, gut-warming batch of tunes that erratically juggle nostalgia, craft, and ass-kicking abandon. ÂEarlier this month, The Men released a follow-up album, Tomorrow's Hits, indicating clearly that the band's foray down Tom Petty Lane was certainly not over. Discussing the album's first track,Â Julian Marszalek of The Quietus marvelously sums up why and how the former noise-punks have evolved into something radically and intriguingly different:
The first thing that strikes about Tomorrow's Hits is the smoothness of the sound and the jangle and near languid strumming of 'Dark Waltz' is a clear indicator that the scuzz and grime found previously under their finger nails has been scrubbed up. Owing a debt to a Zuma-era Neil Young, this is the kind of rollicking number enjoyed with a beer and tequila and one that finds the listener, as much as The Men, out of their comfort zone.Listen to "Pearly Gates," "I Saw Her Face," and "Electric." Kind of makes you want to host a barbeque, right? If so, invite me.