The Men: Tomorrow’s Hits (Sacred Bones)

NYC punks head overground on superlative fourth album

Released Mar 3rd, 2014 via Sacred Bones / By Richard Lewis
The Men: Tomorrow’s Hits (Sacred Bones) ‘Question everything’ is how US music critic Greil Marcus once defined punk. Over the past few years it seems that NYC punks The Men have been doing exactly that, as their sound has evolved with each LP away from the initial noise rock clamour of their early material towards something approaching the Americana influences Marcus is more than familiar with as a Dylan biographer.

As 2012s transitional album New Moon hinted at, The Men are going through something of an ongoing sea-change, with the present album title Tomorrow’s Hits serving as a facile but sincere statement of intent.

Maintaining an estimable release schedule of one-disc, one worldwide slog per year since 2010, the Brooklynites’ fourth platter is easily their most ambitious yet. Recorded in a Hüsker Dü style marathon session of two days straight at Strange Weather Studios NYC the album is the band’s first to be committed to tape in an upscale studio.

With three vocalists present, band founder members/guitarists Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi along with bassist Ben Greenberg, the singing duties are shared out, presumably adhering to the ‘If you wrote it, you can sing it’ doctrine. One immediately apparent effect of the increased clarity means with the rapid tempos scaled back the vocals are pushed up in the mix, with harmonies present on many of the tracks. The instrumental palate continues to increase too, with piano, harmonica, lap steel and even a horn section present on several songs.

Setting out their stall from the off, opener ‘Dark Waltz’ seems in thrall to Basement Tapes era Dylan, the feel underlined by the huffing harmonica that enters the fray towards the close. ‘Get What You Give’ second in is possibly the most radical departure by the group thus far, as a series of brightly jangling arpeggios fades in akin to early-era Byrds, another break with convention coming midway through as a fully-fledged guitar solo appears.

The spectre of the city across the river looms large on ‘Another Night’, a superb take on Born to Run period Springsteen led off by a Clarence Clemons-esque sax line. The straight ahead New Wave briskness of ‘Different Days’ recalls the title track of 2012 opus Open Your Heart while the countrified piano chug of ‘Sleepless’ underscored by Kevin Faulkner’s lap steel is a delight. Demonstrating how the quintet haven’t entirely ditched the escape velocity workouts, lead single ‘Pearly Gates’ roars past with breathless energy, successfully compressing all four sides of Exile On Main St. down into six hyper-frantic minutes, with superhuman drummer Rich Samis somehow managing to keep pace throughout.

The aptly titled ‘Settle Me Down’ in its subdued way is one of the finest cuts here, sashaying along in meditative fashion, the heavy Tom Petty influence underlining just how much of an inspiration the Heartbreakers’ leader has been on contemporary US bands (The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile). Heading into the final stretch concise minor key thrash ‘Going Down’ sees the end credits roll, the angst racked vocal reminiscent of the tension of the group’s earlier albums.

So to answer the question (sort of) posed by the album title then are these Tomorrow’s Hits? If there’s any justice in this cruel, uncertain world then yes, these tracks absolutely should be.