The ass-backwards musical evolution of Brooklyn’s hardest-working band The Men kinda makes one think of the famous monkey-to-man March Of Progress illustration played out in reverse: although their earliest output tended to sound like it had just crawled out of the primordial ooze, it was nonetheless edgy, experimental and thoroughly contemporary, but somewhat contrarily each new release has found them pushing their sound further back into the past. If 2012’s Open Your Heart was a sleeker, rockier version of the spaced-out, Sonic Youth-inspired post-punk found on the previous year′s Leave Home – itself a refinement of the scabrous racket found on debut LP Immaculada – then last year’s New Moon went even further back to basics, taking in a lungful of clean Catskills mountain air and birthing a batch of songs that were often more suited to a barn dance than a basement club. Tomorrow’s Hits (their fifth album in as many years) is not so much a move back to the future as a sort of sideways step; here the group are still stuck in the first half of the 1970s, but rather than the Neil Young and Gram Parsons homages they were peddling twelve months ago they now favour a raucous take on classic American hard rock (Skynyrd, Grand Funk Railroad etc.) and the down-and-dirty blues boogie of the Stones circa Exile On Main Street. It’s yet another change of pace, but one that at least makes more sense than the previous detour into country rock: whilst one would struggle to describe any of these songs as truly “punk”, the loose, chaotic nature of these rollicking blow-outs gels more naturally with the band’s original “noise for noise’s sake” ethos with horns, harmonica and honky-tonk piano seemingly used for the sole purpose of making a louder racket rather than any kind of over-arching musical statement. Pickings are slim for long-time fans who miss the hardcore influence of original bassist/ vocalist Chris Hansell – only the pummelling, all-out squall of the excellent “Pearly Gates” (below) bristles with that kind of brutal, amps-at-11 ferocity – but there’s no shortage of adrenalized, electrifying rock & roll on offer, from the brassy Big Star-isms of “Another Night” to “Different Days“‘ swirling sugar-rush, and even when they revisit New Moon‘s countrified sound (on “Dark Waltz” and “Sleepless”) the group add a satisfying layer of Crazy Horse crunch. To say that Tomorrow’s Hits is neither their best album nor their worst seems like faint praise, but lets just put that in context: The Men are one of the best bands out there right now, and whatever direction they choose they have yet to put a foot wrong.
Tomorrow’s Hits is out now via Sacred Bones.