Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Men - New Moon album + Bowery Ballroom review

The Men have described New Moon as "their most intensely personal album" and they certainly serve up both an enchanting and complex record that will demand effort from any listener.

The record opens with a low-key country number, Open the Door before we're served up a double whammy of raucous Americana-like workouts with Half Angel Half Light followed by Without a Face. It's as if someone ripped up the country-rock rule book, sped things up and turned all the amps up to 11, like someone held a gun to Tom Petty's head and told him to put together a real fucking rock and roll record by the morning or they would blow his brains out (note - this record does not sound like Tom Petty...), the songs are raw and haven't been laboured over. There's definitely a Neil Young and Crazy Horse vibe on some of the songs, like I Saw Her Face, which would fit seamlessly onto Zuma, complete with raging guitar solo. 

High and Lonesome gives us a couple of minutes to catch our breaths and reflect with a forlorn slide guitar taking centre stage. It isn't long before before you're caught up in another whirlwind, as The Brass does its best to melt your brain.

Lead single, Electric, is probably closest the band come to sounding like previous record, Open Your Heart.

The album closes with Supermoon, which features more of that crazy, crashing and burning wig-out that that gives your brain a real workout, not in a look at us type way, just a band that is pushing themselves to their very limit, dragging the listener along with them whether they like it or not. The only thing missing is an actual kitchen sink! I haven't been left reeling like this by a closing song in a long time, while the band may have gone in a slightly more traditional direction they have not substituted any of their intensity and in some ways have even upped it, they have to play even harder in this setup. For me, New Moon is the strongest record of 2013 so far. 

I managed to pick up bonus EP, Campfire Songs at their record release show, a 5 song set, which sounds like the title suggests, a bunch of guys sat around a campfire with acoustic guitars. It's a lovely accompaniment to the record, the vocals are distant, almost demo-like. 

At their sold-out Bowery Ballroom show, openers Parquet Courts impressed me greatly, I had listened to their record, Light Up Gold, which did pass me by a little bit but off the back of their support slot I will certainly revisit. 

Nude Beach were also on the bill, who I had seen the previous night supporting The Babies at the Knitting Factory, they play an unashamed retro garage rock that is infectious, thankfully that night they played their best song, Some Kinda Love, which they hadn't played the night before.

This was the first time I had seen The Men, and they do not excel at subtlety! It must be a difficult job to get the sound right when you've got 5 guys going full-on all the time, the vocals were way too low in the mix but aside from that small complaint the band absolutely rifled through their set, even the slow numbers seemed to give little respite.

The set was obviously tilted towards the new material, but we still got a smattering of material from the previous two records, the venue erupted when they stormed through Open Your Heart, in particular. They are an impressive live act, and I'll certainly be hoping to catch them again now that I've had a chance to immerse myself in the album.

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