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. The band’s fifth album Tomorrow’s Hits is perhaps their boldest expression yet.
Tomorrow’s Hits is a wry title, considering the classic nature of these rambunctious rock songs. The title harks back to the days when 35 minutes was considered a long duration for an album. Sonically, it sees the band recording in a brand new, high-end production studio for the first time. Pre-release publicity heralds the album as The Men’s “high-fidelity record.” There certainly is nothing restrained or obscured about the high-energy rock songs that make up the album.
It’s a work that exemplifies the simple pleasures of rock music. Chugging, powerful opener Dark Waltz immediately introduces a formula that is age old in its simplicity but is extremely effective when performed by a band who have vigorously honed their skills. The mix of harmonies, piano flourishes and carefree guitar solos suggests a new freedom of expression from The Men, who aren’t making music to fit any pre-conceived notions; rather, simply, they’re rocking out and having a great time doing it.
Perhaps the band have mellowed out since the primal aggression of their hardcore infused earlier recordings. “I used to be so angry, baby now I’m confused,” sings Nick Chiericozzi on the lilting, piano adorned Get What You Give. Any notion the band have lost their edge though is scotched by the trio of astounding rockers that make up the heart of the album. Another Night is The Men’s party jam. Powered along by a fantastic E-Street Band style saxophone hook, it’s a joyous, valedictory end of the night anthem. “We went down in a blaze,” sings Chiericozzi without a care in the world. The joyous sense vibrancy and passion is undoubtedly infectious.
Even more striking is single Pearly Gates, six minutes of searing, white-hot rock that most resembles a deranged Status Quo or Ike and Tina duelling with Creedence Clearwater Revival. The relentless hammering honky tonk piano, flaying harmonica and wailing saxophone that sounds like it’s about to explode at any minute combine in a way that sees you completely overcome by the sheer invigorating power of this music. This is the sound of classic rock given a whole new shot of punk rock adrenaline.
Different Days is the track, which most resembles The Men of breakthrough second album Open Your Heart. It’s a propulsive rocker characterised by a wonderful insidious organ hook. Lyrically, it hints at a sense of disaffection and discordance that is always present in their music as Chiericozzi cries, “I hate being young.” In these three key songs, you have the sound of The Men distilled into three distinctly different, yet equally thrilling, rock songs.
As exciting as The Men are when they cut loose though, perhaps the best moments here are when they relax into the kind of languid country strolls that have been slowly creeping into their music but truly flourish here. Sleepless’ piano led country skip is a lovely piece of music, while the equally laid back Settle Me Down is their sweetest and most affecting moment yet. It’s certainly an impressive band who can master uproarious chaos and heartfelt emoting on one record. The Men have clearly reached the level where they can turn their hand to anything and, once again, it has worked a treat.