A new moon suggests a fresh start and new beginnings, but The Men aren’t really the kind of band that just starts over. Indeed, this is an album that isn’t fooled by astrological patterns and understands that the moon isn’t new, it’s the same old lump of rock it has always been, just illuminated in a slightly different way. This is music so ingrained with influences from the past that it is almost impossible to separate the old from the new, and The Men seem intent on continually lighting up lumps of old rock.
Such is the quantity of influences that appear on New Moon that it becomes quite a disorienting experience; an endless thrum of a past gone mad. Hints and allusions make themselves known and vanish as quickly as they appear; a theme that appears to run throughout the album.
A quick look at the song titles gives the impression that The Men are suffering from a form of amnesia. There’s Without A Face, which is followed by I Saw Her Face, which is in turn followed by I See No One. Taking these songs on title alone, it’s as if the band is plagued by visions from the past and that these are, at times, unclear or incomplete. When they fill the gaps in and get a full picture, it quickly disappears into nothingness. Everything, they seem to be saying, is fleeting, yet also cyclical. Everything will fade and then re-emerge, still the same, but perceived with new eyes and new understanding.
All of which is a rather grand way of saying that New Moon is hugely indebted to the days of classic American Rock and The Men strive to find new ways of presenting it. How this album will be perceived is very much dependent on the knowledge that the listener brings with them. To many New Moon will appear to be a slightly dirty retread; to others it will seem to be new and vibrant. Either way, this is a well executed set of songs by a band teetering on the divide between nostalgia and (ridiculously loud) homage.
Anyone familiar with the full-on Rock explosions of The Men’s previous efforts will be wrong footed by the rolling piano balladry of open track Open The Door but it isn’t long until normal service is resumed. Half Angel Half Light takes the Country basis of the opening song and gives it some urgency. In doing so, the image of Tom Petty is carved into New Moon. Without A Face and The Brass are both full-on assaults that surge with real aggression, similar to the always-in-the-red charges of The Stooges.
Elsewhere there are hints of The Rolling Stones (the honky tonk jangle of The Seeds), The Jesus And Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, MC5, and a furious Neil Young (I Saw Her Face). It’s such a morass of influences that somehow these songs don’t always sound like replicas made in honour of their originators. Only once do The Men truly sound as if they’ve been overwhelmed by the band they’ve borrowed from, and in the case of Bird Song, it just so happens to be The Band, so it is perhaps understandable.
Closing the album is the drawn out cosmic jam of Supermoon. Perhaps the finest moment on New Moon, it rumbles, roars, and squeals with wild abandon. The Men sound like they’re off the leash at long last, and it shows. Overdriven, overblown and utterly exciting, it might be nothing new, but it’s a thunderous reminder as to why rock is so enduring.