Review: New Moon by The Men
by John Cheesman on March 20, 2013
Posted in: Album Review, Music, Rock
On March 5th, New York City group The Men released their third album under the Sacred Bones Label, New Moon. Sacred Bones was responsible for a good number of my favorite releases of last year and their catalogue is full of diversity. They currently house/ tour Cult of Youth, Moon Duo, Psychic Ills, Lust for Youth, and, of course, The Men. In the past, just to hint even further at their extensive diversity, Sacred Bones has released singles and EPs from Trust, and even further back from Zola Jesus and David Lynch. But enough about Sacred Bones– I’m here to rave about New Moon.
New Moon marks a big change for The Men in more ways than one. Firstly, the group chose to flee the big city for a retreat to Big Indian, New York, and that transition from city to country is clearly visible in the distinction between this album and their last release, 2012’s Open Your Heart. In addition, the group has changed rosters since their last release. The group prides themselves on a compositional style that truly highlights the “band” experience– no one member is the front man and each aspect of the music is equally important. The give and take between the members as well as their shift to the country has transformed The Men on this album from a scuzzy noise rock group to a sort of road rock collective. And this shift couldn’t be more apparent than on album starter, Open the Door.
Rather than heavy reverb and hissing guitars, Open the Door begins with a simple piano melody. The tone of the song is very much bucolic— rolling and steady, soft and beautiful. If you stopped the album after just this song, you might think you were listening to a new band altogether. But what keeps New Moon interesting listen after listen is that The Men’s punk roots remain constantly present even within their newly reigned in frame work. The album alternates on a nearly song by song basis between sweeping and slow near-anthems and up-beat thrashes that fans of The Men will find more familiar. But even on the faster songs (Half Angel Half Light, Without a Face, The Brass, Electric) there is a real sense of progress and change, and it’s fascinating to hear these punk rockers staying true to their roots while trying at a more, for lack of a better word, mature sound.
New Moon will not strike you as something new, something innovative. The Men draw unashamedly and openly from well established tropes. What will strike you is how they can incorporate seemingly disparate ideas to make a cohesive whole. You will hear just as much Bob Dylan and Neil Young as you will Sex Pistols, and while these influences can lead easily to a “been there done that” bore of an album, The Men know how to keep things interesting. The constant vacillation from one end to the other of their expressive range, both within and between songs, makes New Moon glow; makes it come to life with each listen. And each listen brings out more and more nuance and depth.
So in conclusion, give New Moon a listen, as well as the rest of Sacred Bones recent catalogue. Each group on the label manages to incorporate a sort of punk aesthetic to their style, and having such diverse groups pulling from a similar pool of influence makes for a really unique group of artists.