The Men

Tomorrow's Hits

The thing about progress is not so much that you can’t stop it but more where it leads to. Things are always going to evolve, change and mutate but the question is, ‘Into what?’ and it’s one that hangs over musicians and bands like the Sword of Damocles. Brooklyn’s The Men are a case in point. Over a furious work rate that has now seen them release five albums in as many years, The Men have evolved from a hard core punk band with an unerring knack for melody into what now appears to be power-pop outfit moving into the horn-driven territory of an early incarnation of the E-Street Band.

Tomorrow’s Hits marks a significant change for The Men. Eschewing the lo-fi homemade approach of their previous releases, the band elected to enter a professional recording studio and over the course of three days laid down the eight tracks that make up their latest collection. An incredible work rate to be sure and a cursory glimpse over the sleeve notes reveals that the album was recorded before the release of their last album, New Moon, so the likelihood that the follow-up for Tomorrow’s Hits is already in the can and ready for release next year is a very real possibility.

The first thing that strikes about Tomorrow’s Hits is the smoothness of the sound and the jangle and near languid strumming of ‘Dark Waltz’ is a clear indicator that the scuzz and grime found previously under their finger nails has been scrubbed up. Owing a debt to a Zuma-era Neil Young, this is the kind of rollicking number enjoyed with a beer and tequila and one that finds the listener, as much as The Men, out of their comfort zone.

Indeed, the power of their previous releases and their breathtakingly combustible live shows is in little evidence here and the feeling remains that ‘Pearly Gates’, all driving bass, squalling guitars, honking sax and parping brass, may have been a red herring when it emerged online earlier this year. ‘Different Days’ follows in a similar vein as it pelts with all the energy of a yapping dog tripping over its own tongue. It’s not that the rest of the songs are bad – far from it – but there seems to be a crucial element, a spark of some sort missing to truly lift the album into somewhere special.

The brass-driven stomper ‘Another Night’ smoulders rather than ignites despite its best intentions while the surf-inflected ‘Settle Me Down’ doesn’t quite catch that wave. But Tomorrow’s Hits isn’t without its saving graces. The hazy roots of ‘Sleepless’ echo a time and place where punk and country and the blues would collide to create a new vernacular while ‘Going Down’ is The Men doing what The Men do best – stripping back, rocking out and galloping out of the traps at such a pace that the feeling of imminent collapse is never far away.

Tomorrow’s Hits is an easy album to admire – this is The Men stretching out and aiming for new targets – but a difficult one to fall in love with. Too often their shots go wide or, on occasion, lack the power to even reach their destination but this is no bad thing. The Men are here for the long run and, given the nature of progress as much as their own development, it would be a fool who’d bet against them consolidating, growing and expanding.

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