Release Date: Mar 4, 2014
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Tomorrow’s Hits opens with a song called “Dark Waltz”, and it can be heard as an unofficial reprisal of “Candy”, the strum-a-thon off Brooklyn band The Men’s 2012 LP, Open Your Heart. On “Candy”, vocalist/guitarist Mark Perro quits his day job and revels in the freedom of being able to toss back a few shots as early or as late as he wants. In some ways the opposite of The Replacements’ barroom sweeper “Here Comes a Regular”, “Candy” (though it’s not without a sense of limitations) is given another couple wrinkles of dimension during the chorus.
There are very few groups I’d like to be a part of, but I would like Brooklyn five-piece The Men to expand to six members to allow me to join for a bit. They sound like most of the things I love about music: post-hardcore punk to start, then classic Crazy Horse and country rockin’ later in the their fairly-short-to-date career so far and now they sound like a classic rock and roll band – what’s not love? The band aren’t quite the conflicted rock and roll band that gave us the rollicking Open Your Heart followed by the more classicist New Moon albums either; once upon a time Mark Perro yelled “I wanna see you write a love song”, now on “Dark Waltz”, the opening track on The Men’s new album Tomorrow’s Hits, the singer and guitarist croons “I used to shy away from / sweet darlin’ calling to explain / I love you…” as the rest of the band performs an harmonica-laden woozy bar-room rock out that’s as much Tonight’s the Night as 21st century Brooklyn. They seem all about writing, recording and touring, no time for hobbies or what have ye.
Brooklyn’s The Men have made a fairly dramatic transformation from their inception as a contemplative noise-rock amalgam into their current incarnation as a kind of freewheelin’ power-rock pop crew with a penchant for the Grateful Dead. They’ve released albums at a steady clip of one-per-year since 2010’s self-released Immaculada, and their latest LP, Tomorrow’s Hits, is almost unfairly possessive of a foretelling title, seeing as how vanilla some of the songs can come off sounding. The record, however, is an accurate chronology of a working band’s prolific devotion to feeding the muse.
All the young dudes carry the news. Or maybe just those who can wield it. On their fourth record in just three years, The Men are tangled in a time warp, and this is a good thing. The irony of the title Tomorrow’s Hits and neon-sign cover art both allude to a ’70s time capsule cracking open ….
Their fifth album in as many years, the Men prove themselves to be not only prolific, but wildly versatile on Tomorrow's Hits. Following suit with 2013's New Moon, the album finds the Brooklyn band continuing their astounding evolution from abrasive noisemakers to full-on bar band. Embracing the sounds of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger, the band merge the earnest, rollicking sounds of rock's past with a production aesthetic that still feels like their own.
Why the Men to abandoned noisy, hardcore punk and turned themselves into Crazy Horse remains one of the great musical mysteries, but on their fifth LP in as many years, the Brooklyn band completes the transition. As its title implies, Tomorrow's Hits sees the band honing the sound of last year's New Moon into a tight collection of pop-minded rock songs. However, there's nothing forward thinking about this record.
Is it summertime yet? The newfound bounce in the Men's fifth full-length since 2010 is so damn infectious, it screams for endless cheap-beer-fuelled nights in the park. There isn't much margin for error on the eight-song record, but never throughout the Men's prolific career have they displayed such finely tuned groove. The New York five-piece has embraced the Americana that 2013's New Moon was hinting at and gone all-out the Band on us, a sound best exemplified by rollicking, country-infused opener Dark Waltz.
Nostalgia bad; originality good. Therein lies the dogma destined to slay The Men’s fifth record, Tomorrow’s Hits, in the eyes of zeitgeist hunters everywhere. And what to add? Both statements are misleading and simplistic - not to mention the basis for exquisitely dull arguments - but isn’t this glaringly obvious? What’s more, isn’t there a case that, despite Tomorrow’s Hits’ frequently being as derivative an album as seems plausibly imaginable, this whole discussion is oddly impertinent to The Men? Through no hype of their own, the Brooklyn five-piece exist marginally outside the rules, and what’s interesting is just why that’s so.
Brooklyn punk band The Men have a fair claim to being one of the most consistently prolific bands in the world. Since their self released and visceral debut Immaculada in 2010, the quintet have stuck to releasing an album a year every year, morphing through ragged hardcore rock on 2011’s debut for Sacred Bones, Leave Home, towards a more refined classic rock approach on last year’s New Moon. Each album by The Men has been a gradual step on a rock journey with each record having its own, often thrilling, distinct personality.
Review Summary: Yesterday's RockThe Men would open an album called Tomorrow’s Hits with an expository signpost placed forty years ago. Through their later career, they’ve consistently played up classic rock and roll tropes--power-punk chord progressions, guitar solos, sloppy joviality, and live, one-take, all-or-fucking-nothing energy--with unabashed enthusiasm, at their best sounding like a giddy counter to over-produced, sterilized modern guitar rock without ever getting stuffy about it. The only irony in the phrase “Tomorrow’s Hits” is the sheer impossibility for these songs to achieve that distinction, but you won’t hear any fretting over the state of culture from The Men.
A few minutes into the Men’s previous album, New Moon, Nick Chiericozzi whooped “I got a rock band now and I’m on a roll!” It was a boast that would be out-of-character for this otherwise earnest group if it wasn’t utterly true on both counts. New Moon was the Men’s third winning record in as many years, and after years of sonic and personal instability, the quintet pooled their energy into being a rock band—one that liked their Neil Young loud, their beer plentiful, and their guitars in threes. A year later, the message on Tomorrow’s Hits is about the same for people who preferred to see them as they were on 2011’s Leave Home, revivalists of nearly every iteration of ugly and abrasive NYC guitar perversion, or as the comprehensive indie-rawkers of Open Your Heart: they’re a rock band and the roll continues.
The Men naming their new album Tomorrow’s Hits is almost too ironic to not address it. It’s true that most of today’s rock bands, big and small, choose to mine influences from the past rather than invent the sound of the future, but few seemed to be so enthralled with the music of yester-year these days as The Men. From their days as 80’s no-wave punks to basically becoming 70’s power-pop enthusiasts, The Men have never really had much of a style to call their own per say – their influences glaringly obvious and with no effort by the band to really hide them when discussing their music.
Who’s the best damn rock band on the planet? No doubt there are solid arguments for desert rockers Queens of the Stone Age or sludge metal titans Baroness but, you know, it’s hard not to put the Men as one of the top candidates. They’ve released four albums, two EPs, and toured constantly since the turn of the decade. Their rare combination of prolificity and excellence has generated heaps of praise.
The Men have spent their career distorting what came before, so there’s more than a little bit of a wink in the title of their latest, Tomorrow’s Hits. 2011’s Leave Home and 2012’s Open Your Heart were literal with that distortion, blasting every punk and rock trope from the past 30 years they could get their hands on. Then last year’s New Moon turned that same eye towards classic rock, with some folk and country mixed in.
The Men, from Brooklyn, started six years ago as noise-punk heathens. They've been collecting musical and emotional accessories ever since: Their fifth album features harmonica, pedal steel, horns and pianos, and it opens with a sweet, slovenly roadhouse reminiscence about a guitar handed down from Mom in 1974. The Men haven't really mastered songwriting yet, but they're still great at song-bashing, whether it's on rampaging vamps like "Different Days" and "Pearly Gates," or on "Settle Me Down," a dappled, steady-rolling zoneout that could make a theoretical seventh side of All Things Must Pass.
A few years ago, up'n'coming Brooklyn foursome the Men were a punk band, albeit one with far-reaching reference points (Spacemen 3, in the case of one song on their 2011 album, Leave Home). With every new record – roughly one per year – their restrictions have lifted further. Now, they're a fully fledged classic rock band, borrowing hard from all eras, complete with E Street wailing saxophones (Another Night).
The Men have long taken musical cues from all over; as soon as they were pegged as post-hardcore channelling the likes of Fugazi or The Replacements, they were co-opting surf rock riffs and classic songwriting on ‘New Moon’. So the more mature sound of ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ shouldn’t come as surprise to many – although those who’ve found much to love in the Brooklyn-based quintet’s oft-frenetic live sets might find themselves a little out of water on this sixth full-length. They’ve left those grimy basements of their home borough well and truly behind here – bar the pseudo-outtakes and shouty moments on ‘Different Days’ and the grungy distortion that accompanies closer ‘Going Down’ – they’re showing signs of being buried deep in the Great American Songbooks of yore.
In an attempt to figure out the mode of preference for what is formally abstract vs. what is formally concrete, the research almost inherently illuminates a cyclical process. Irony or sincerity: a default of human processing to create forms out of rejection, only to then prefer the previous forms in another rejection. Is there a way to transcend this? Is the cycle of presentation an unending loop? Do simplified metaphors even apply? Who’s to claim that their transgressions are even their own? I present the argument, but I see the fallacy in my own presentation.
Watching a band mellow and mature over the years can be a wonderful thing. And then there’s The Men. Tomorrow’s Hits is the Brooklyn outfit’s fifth album in five years, but it sounds as if it’s been decades since 2010’s Immaculada. Rather than morphing gradually from avant-punk agitators to roots-rock-meets-’80s-indie revivalists, the men of The Men have leaped radically in that direction from album to album.
The Men — Tomorrow’s Hits (Sacred Bones)A few years back, The Men were, well, the men. It was 2012, and the band had just released Open Your Heart, an album that solidified the line-up and supercharged its sound. Guitarists Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi had fully ceded drumming duties to Rich Samis, and the twin-guitar assault clicked, yielding an album that finally seemed to translate the whiplash energy of The Men’s brawny live show.
The thing about progress is not so much that you can't stop it but more where it leads to. Things are always going to evolve, change and mutate but the question is, 'Into what?' and it's one that hangs over musicians and bands like the Sword of Damocles. Brooklyn's The Men are a case in point. Over a furious work rate that has now seen them release five albums in as many years, The Men have evolved from a hard core punk band with an unerring knack for melody into what now appears to be power-pop outfit moving into the horn-driven territory of an early incarnation of the E-Street Band.
Major Lazer, Apocalypse Soon EP Diplo's Major Lazer project lends itself to the EP format. Its spastic, booty-shaking, dancehall-tinged music is best in brief doses, and it usually struggles when it is tasked to maintain momentum and attention for thirty-plus minutes. I'm disappointed, then, that Apocalypse Soon struggles to keeps things interesting over its modest seventeen minute run.