Is it possible to be both the most- and least-consistent band in the world? The Men could fit neatly into both categories.
Their first record, Immaculada, was reasonable, while the following three were equally excellent, but for different reasons. Leave Home was violent and glorious in its brutality. Open Your Heart displayed a smooth transition from hardcore punk into SST-era college rock, with a diverse platter of intriguing influences from the Meat Puppets to Minutemen and Black Flag. Career highlight New Moon brought Crazy Horse and Tom Petty flavours to their fuzzy college rock, and featured their best song – the rousing, heartbreaking The Seeds.
Then, something odd happened – Tomorrow’s Hits had a lukewarm reception [But not from us! – Ed.], and Devil Music was released to almost no reaction at all. It was a backlash of sorts – it didn’t have a wide release and was touted as a transitional record, allowing the band to get back to their roots after they had splintered a couple of years previously.
On Drift – which almost-but-not-quite shares a title with Scott Walker’s masterpiece – the issue of consistency is blindingly obvious. There’s a mixture of Suicide-esque lo-fi electro (Maybe I’m Crazy, Secret Light), a down-tempo track that sounds like Tom Petty doing trip hop (When I Held You In My Arms), some Byrds-y country rock (Rose On Top Of The World and So High) and – brilliantly – some curled-lip skater metal in the vein of The Shrine or Death Alley. The fact that their pop at skater metal (Killed Someone) is one of the best things in their catalogue is actually a huge compliment – this band master just about every kind of music they turn their collective attention to, and this is no different.
The biggest problem is that the stylistic inconsistency dampens any momentum that builds up over the course of the record, and that it often sounds like a bunch of solo projects crudely welded together. This is a world-class band, with more than enough goodwill to sustain the odd howler. But the fact that this just seems to be their most uninspired work is even more of a shame.
The music here is, at times, superb – it’s just hard to imagine anything (except maybe Rose On Top Of The World or Killed Someone) finding a place in your permanent playlist. And a lot of it is just average, which is probably the worst thing you could say about a band as mercurial as this.