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The Men - New Moon Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.75
Musicianship 8.75
Lyrics 8.75
Production 8.75
Creativity 8.75
Lasting Value 8.75
Reviewer Tilt 8.75
Final Verdict: 88%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.1
Musicianship 8.45
Lyrics 6.05
Production 7.8
Creativity 6.85
Lasting Value 6.85
Reviewer Tilt 7.45
Average: 74%
Inside AP.net

The Men - New Moon

Reviewed by: Chris Collum (03/05/13)
The Men - New Moon
Record Label: Sacred Bones
Release Date: March 5, 2013


Forget everything you thought you knew about The Men. Again.

Last March, less than a year removed from the release of their blistering sophomore album Leave Home, the Brooklyn noise-punk outfit took us all by surprise with a fantastic album that really wasn't all that noisy. Open Your Heart incorporated a very broad and disparate range of influences and ended up being one of the most intriguing and promising records released last year. It seemed fairly certain both from that record and from live performances that followed soon after that The Men, for better or for worse, were moving away from the noisier sound that defined their earlier work. About a month after Open Your Heart dropped, the band announced that they were already recording a follow-up record. We later learned that they had recorded nineteen songs at a cabin in the Catskills of upstate New York, twelve of which would become New Moon.

I'll warn you now: the first time you sit down to listen to this record, you might think you've been duped. Go ahead, turn the hideously orange jacket sleeve upside down and shake it, there's not another record hiding in there somewhere. This is not a joke. The album begins with "Open the Door," a piano-driven number that sounds completely unlike anything the band has ever done before, more so than anything on the last album or anything else on this one. The piano has a falling-apart honky-tonk sound to it, and is accompanied mostly by organ, lap steel and falsetto background vocals. There is no blitzkrieg of noise here, not even sign of a single electric guitar. There is a mandolin solo, though.

I'm inclined to guess that The Men put this song at the front of the album for a reason, and not just because it serves as a good warm-up for the barnburner that is "Half Angel Half Light," either. If you fell in love with Immaculada and Leave Home, and held out hope that Open Your Heart was no more than a wayward foray into more melodic territory, you're out of luck. New Moon takes the Americana and alt-country elements only hinted at on the last record and, more often than not, pushes them to the foreground.

If you can make it past the first song, however ("Open the Door" is a good song, but admittedly it's a pretty big shock to the system), the second track "Half Angel Half Light" is easily the best song The Men have written to date. It sounds a little like The Pogues, a lot like the Mekons, and once the wah-heavy chorus hits a little like…Dinosaur Jr? It's a sound that suits the band perfectly. The three-guitar attack that the band has had since picking up Ben Greenberg for Open Your Heart has never sounded better, even when one of the three guitars is a jangly acoustic, and Greenberg and Nick Chiericozzi trade verses aptly. But there's still no noise.

For a little while I wasn't sure what exactly I thought of New Moon because, well, it's kind of all over the place. Not necessarily in a way that comes across as inconsistent, but the record does not feel as cohesive as Open Your Heart did. That being said, however, the umpteen directions the album goes in all sound fantastic. The noise returns in full force from the get-go for the second half of the album, with the churning "The Brass" prominently featuring a noisy guitar freak-out during the extended jam that serves as an outro, before cutting straight into lead single "Electric," a fast-paced number that's probably the most traditionally "punk" song on this record.

Second-to-last song "Freaky" is the catchiest song the band has written to date, and like many other songs on the album has a distinctly "western" feel to it. That's kind of a lazy term, but the whole record definitely calls to mind tumbleweeds and wide open spaces, an interesting juxtaposition to the arrangements that are at times very claustrophobic and mostly pretty lo-fi. The production quality has a certain grit to it that Open Your Heart lacked a lot of the time, but it's strange because calling the record "lo-fi" doesn't really seem accurate. To my ears, the production immediately calls to mind The Monitor by Titus Andronicus, which was obviously a very meticulously produced album, but also one that somehow managed to retain a gravelly edge in terms of the way it sounded.

Other obvious touchstones include Tom Petty in a bit of the song structure and vocals (the band recently professed a great love for Petty in an interview with Village Voice), and often early-90s Neil Young & Crazy Horse, particularly on second single "I Saw Her Face," which almost feels like a blatant Crazy Horse rip-off until the band rips through the last forty-five seconds at punk rock tempo while two of their guitarists trade off noisy solo bits. It's a trick the band has utilized before, but after the relative calm of the record up to that point, it really takes the listener by surprise in the best way. Another big influence is old-school 60s garage rock, particularly on songs like "Half Angel Half Light."

This record is certainly not for everyone. It is somewhat all over the map, but it works way more often than it doesn't. The only tracks that truly feel like they don't belong are the aforementioned "Open the Door," and the closing number, "Supermoon," easily the noisiest song on the album. Just as it seems like the band might have intentionally opened New Moon with the most jarringly reserved of the twelve songs, it seems as if they might have ended on a noisier note on purpose as well, almost as if to say, "hey, we can still do this too." But both of those songs are still fantastic in their own rights. The only song that doesn't really stand out is "High and Lonesome," a brief instrumental track that doesn't really do much besides show off some top-notch lap steel work.

New Moon is the sound of a band going in about fifteen different directions at once, most of them being expeditions into previously uncharted waters for The Men. It's a great listen though, if one can put up with the unevenness of style from track to track. The only real complaint that I have is that it does mean that the album doesn't feel as much like an album per se as it does a sequence of songs with only the slightest connecting thread between them, but in a weird way it ends up working out pretty well. Finally, the lyrics are generally average to just-above-average, but that's not really the band's primary focus so it doesn't present any big issues here.

The band supposedly already has the follow-up to New Moon recorded, so it will be very interesting to see what direction they go in next. While some (fans of the now-absent noise) will certainly give up on the band after this record, I think that many more will be drawn to what The Men have done with this album: they have taken a bold step away from their roots towards a new but wholly engaging sound, or maybe more accurately, a smorgasbord of new and engaging sounds. With all the places The Men take us in forty-two minutes, it kind of makes one question what exactly genre tags mean and how useful they are in 2013. But that's a discussion for another day.

The records sound nothing alike, but New Moon reminds me of Yo La Tengo's Fakebook in a way, a 1990 album of alt-country covers coming on the heels of a few of the noisiest LPs the late 80s indie rock boom saw. That band has since gone on to explore many different avenues of popular music, sometimes to mixed results, but never with a lack of ambition and never in a way that seemed formulaic or like a simple rehash of other artists' work. And in the end, that's the most important thing to remember about New Moon: yes it's hard to talk about this record without talking about its perceived influences (what other records or bands it sounds like), but that's not reason to write The Men off as pale imitators. On New Moon they take a wide range of sounds and somehow make them all their own, and if you can keep up with all the "genre-hopping," this is certain to be one of the most unique and interesting records you'll hear this year.

I for one can't wait to follow The Men wherever they take us next.

8.75/10

Additional Information1. Open the Door
2. Half Angel Half Light
3. Without a Face
4. The Seeds
5. I Saw Her Face
6. High and Lonesome
7. The Brass
8. Electric
9. I See No One
10. Birdsong
11. Freaky
12. Supermoon

Official Website

Chris Collum
AP.net Staff Reviewer
Twitter | Last.fm
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 24
07:28 AM on 03/05/13
#2
Holly HoX!
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Nice review, Chris Chris.

I like alt country so I'm very okay with this album. Love The Men. They just seem like dudes that unabashedly play whatever the hell they want. If older fans were knocked out by the Replacements-esque "Candy" on Open Your Heart....they are in for a rude awakening with New Moon. Love it tho. Ha, already have a follow up recorded. Sacred Bones is luccckkkyy.

Killer live show as well!
07:35 AM on 03/05/13
#3
Chris Collum
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Nice review, Chris Chris.

I like alt country so I'm very okay with this album. Love The Men. They just seem like dudes that unabashedly play whatever the hell they want. If older fans were knocked out by the Replacements-esque "Candy" on Open Your Heart....they are in for a rude awakening with New Moon. Love it tho. Ha, already have a follow up recorded. Sacred Bones is luccckkkyy.

Killer live show as well!
This band is going to be huge for Sacred Bones, which is awesome because they put out sweet stuff and Caleb Braaten, who founded the label, seems like a really great dude.

And yeah, there's going to be a line in the sand in terms of people's response to this record, and you and I and others you dig alt-country a lot are going to be on one side and those who don't or were really, really into their noise rock stuff are going to be on the other side. It also comes down to how much unevenness you can handle in terms of style on one album haha.
08:10 AM on 03/05/13
#4
EndlessPrisoner
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great review chris. glad to finally read it
08:45 AM on 03/05/13
#5
SpyKi
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Liked the nosier songs on this a lot more than the mellower ones so maybe I should check out an older record of theirs?
10:00 AM on 03/05/13
#6
Jeff_Ryan
easy come and easy go, whatever
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Love this record
10:19 AM on 03/05/13
#7
Nuns On A Bus
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Great album, great review as well.
10:36 AM on 03/05/13
#8
Theseventhson
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Worst record I've heard this year I think.
10:53 AM on 03/05/13
#9
Chris Collum
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Worst record I've heard this year I think.
Was thinking about you

Quote:
While some (fans of the now-absent noise) will certainly give up on the band after this record

To each their own, I love it
12:19 PM on 03/05/13
lightcollapse
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Saying that fans of the "noise" will give up on the band just because this release is more cleaned up is kind of ridiculous - Leave Home wasn't that noisy to begin with, but certainly took a lot more risks, and didn't feel self-parodic like this album does (see: "Bird Sawng").

I don't really care for this album, but this was a well thought out review, Chris, The Mekons and Fakebook comparisons were good calls.
12:29 PM on 03/05/13
Chris Collum
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Saying that fans of the "noise" will give up on the band just because this release is more cleaned up is kind of ridiculous - Leave Home wasn't that noisy to begin with, but certainly took a lot more risks, and didn't feel self-parodic like this album does (see: "Bird Sawng").

I don't really care for this album, but this was a well thought out review, Chris, The Mekons and Fakebook comparisons were good calls.
I don't think fans of Leave Home will ditch the band just because the new record is less noisy, but more so because the band has undergone a stylistic shift for which they don't really care. It happens when bands jump the tracks sometimes.

I agree that Leave Home took more risks. That is probably still my favorite record that these guys have put out, largely for that reason. But I also disagree with the notion that New Moon is in any way "safe," (you didn't say that specifically but I'm inferring, possibly incorrectly). I think the record goes in a lot of directions that most people didn't expect it to, and also will alienate a lot of fans, partially for that reason. So yeah, I think it does take some risks and it pays off a lot more than it doesn't.

If I wasn't so adamantly opposed to self-revising after the fact, I would have gone back and added that I don't really care for "Bird Song" either. That track does indeed fall flat, I agree.

Thanks homie, especially for taking the time to read it.

Also I'd like to just get this out there, but I don't really think this record is a 9/10. But we are supposed to use a 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, etc. scale. I'd give it around an 8.8 probably.
01:03 PM on 03/05/13
SmeezyBeezy
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Nice review, Chris Chris.

I like alt country so I'm very okay with this album. Love The Men. They just seem like dudes that unabashedly play whatever the hell they want. If older fans were knocked out by the Replacements-esque "Candy" on Open Your Heart....they are in for a rude awakening with New Moon. Love it tho. Ha, already have a follow up recorded. Sacred Bones is luccckkkyy.

Killer live show as well!
Thinkin about seeing them on Saturday.
01:09 PM on 03/05/13
Holly HoX!
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Thinkin about seeing them on Saturday.
Really really good. Saw Tame last night.
02:11 PM on 03/05/13
shit stroll
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Worst record I've heard this year I think.
agreed
02:12 PM on 03/05/13
shit stroll
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also worst review of the year
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