Album review: The Men – ‘New York City’.

There’s something comfortingly Sonic Youth about The Men. You never know what flirtation with substance and style is going to hit you with each new release. Since 2011’s ‘Leave Home’ and its fuzzed out contortions that pushed intellipunk grand epochs right to the red, there’s been twist–turns and lurches in noise. That album was my introduction, my sand-blasted handshake with the band. I might have kept at least tabs ever since.  

After ‘Leave Home’ thumped out agro-thrash sprawlings, ‘Open Your Heart’ boiled the scrawl down to garage, reigned in but no less mean and wild. ‘New Moon‘ dragged in 60’s psyche country, a template doubled down on for ‘Tomorrow’s Hits‘. Since then then there’s been fuzz-addled grunge that’s kept tight to the best side of retro, and toes dipped in kraut rock, electronica, voodoo-lounge gothica, delta blues and even a kiss of Kenny Loggins (I’m looking at you Children All Over The World‘). All while still sonically The Men.

So here we are now in ’23 with the yet to land LP ‘New York City‘. All the mess and the pump’s back in style. If an old Standells demo got picked up and played with and kicked around by MC5 before getting beat up and blasted by Stooges… well, this is the record we’d get. And we should be pleased that we got it.

The first half runs blast after blast furnace blast with tracks forged from limitless snarl. They spit in your ears and thrust tough through the membranes that protect the grey matter from rattles. It’s garage trauma en-masse, with gratuitous levels of scuzz-coloured goodness and sleaze. OK all the touchstones are obvious, right down to that MC5 solo that punctuates ‘God Bless The USA‘, but that’s part of the pressurised thrill. They get boiled up and spat right back out.

The next half takes us elsewhere and switches. ‘Eye’ meanders its way through a single-riff wig-out that falls shy of the freak-out it’s pitched towards. ‘Eternal Recurrence‘ resurrects the tempo while slinking slap-sleek through its jangle. ‘Round The Corner’ is primordial swamp, a cool cut of dirge coloured mud. But the next kick of high heat that gets back to the squalor is the run-away loose-cannon rhythm that propels ‘Through the Night’ through it’s bliss. It’s a track Viagra Boys would be proud of. All wet-wired and loose and wry smiled. And from there we might even say we meditate, if such a thing can be said with these sounds.

As with all things The Men there’s one question: Which iteration is your most preferred? All you suckers for Nuggets and Pebbles and Sleaze are guaranteed to find sinew to chew on.      

New York City‘ is due February 3rd. The EP ‘Hard Livin’ is out now to consume and consummate to.