The Men are like a microcosm of men as a whole in that they are both good and bad.They do great things and they do less great things but I think we're all still ok with them being around. They've actually been rather consistent over the last few years and this stability has led to their new album Mercy on which they make music with some of the classic rock moves of the 70s era old timers alongside the experimental churn of someone like Suicide.
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The Men have been around for well over a decade at this point. This would be a good innings for any outfit, but given that the band started out in the punk scene - a sphere not known for producing groups with long shelf-lives - it becomes more notable still. They’ve been doing this thing for a long time now, and as such you can understand why they've eased off over their past few records, trading out ripping noise-rock for the steadier hands of alt-country and Americana.
From the shimmering organs and brushstroke drums of opening track ‘Cool Water’ it’s apparent that The Men’s latest LP ‘Mercy’ journeys them further down that road. ‘Cool Water’ itself is a stately procession, one that recalls ‘Cassadaga’-era Bright Eyes - but, like, in a good way. The vocal, a rusty croak with plenty of the Dylans about it, is key to knitting the whole track together. There is also a lot of Neil Young going on here, both rockin’ Young (see ‘Wading In Dirty Water’) and crooning Young (see ‘Fallin’ Thru’, though again there’s that Dylany rasp to the delivery here).
They may be settling comfortably into musical middle-age, but ‘Mercy’ isn’t all dad-croons. ‘Children All Over The World’ features bright keys that lob a bit of power-pop in from leftfield, something that tips the song into The War On Drugs territory. There’s Black Lips, Jay Reatard and some of mid-period Nick Cave’s Southern Gothic yip to ‘Call The Dr.’ while the rambunctious ‘Breeze’ makes a good fist of rehashing the band's lively past.
‘Mercy’ isn’t without flaws - I do miss the old energy, and it can be hard to tell if some of the songs are sparse as in soul-baring or sparse as in unfinished. That said, just because The Men’s music is slower now doesn’t mean that it isn’t as charged. They continue to grow old gracefully.
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