Familiar, but Certainly Fun
Very few bands have been able to earn the adjective “prolific” as quickly as The Men. Since their formation in 2008, the Brooklynites have been hard at work: they’ve released debut Immaculada, abrasive noise-rock Leave Home and critically acclaimed Open Your Heart, all within their first three years. The latter album marked a new, more accessible direction which was further explored in 2013 by New Moon and 2014 by Tomorrow’s Hits. Following years of experimenting with new genres (country, folk, surf rock) The Men have returned to their roots in Devil Music, their 6th studio album in 8 years.
While the album is a return, it would be inaccurate to write off Devil Music as a regression. Listening to the record is like hearing the band for the first time in 2008, but with eight years of experience and experimentation built in; it is a return home following a years-long journey spanning across once-foreign genres.
Our heroes’ return to the garage begins with the group in full swing with opening track “Dreamer.” The boys seem at ease as if they are jamming out in the home studio and continue chugging the guitar in “Crime” and “Ridin’ On.” It’s clear that The Men are in their comfort zone as all of the vital elements of noise rock are present: atonality, reverb, and dissonance. While familiar, it’s nothing like what we’ve heard in previous Men albums. Nick Chiericozzi brings out an erratic saxophone that reappears throughout the record. Lyrics are not exactly on the forefront and it’s difficult to understand anything vocalists Mark Perro and Chiericozzi are saying. This is an album you feel, not analyze.
Devil Music is not without its flaws. Several clusters of songs on the album can be difficult to distinguish, blending into one another. The first three tracks are structured very similarly, only to be followed by five tracks driven by crunchy guitars, four of which are also structurally similar. We get limited relief when The Men take some time from their default sound to reminisce about their past experimental adventures. “Patterns,” provides a psychedelic-inspired track with a turbulent saxophone, along with the acoustic title track that introduces a much-needed rest from Devil Music‘s constant cacophonous guitar din.
While the album can grow tiring, it brings back The Men’s classic sound that has been missed. Devil Music does not break new ground, but that’s OK; every album does not need to be a masterpiece. The group addressed their low-stake intentions of Devil Music on Bandcamp, asserting that they “wanted to give ourselves something enjoyable to listen to with this record… Something that had our personality in it, not just another record to get reviewed, to get into festivals, to get on tv, to participate in some sort of endless, winless game. This isn’t a campaign.” In this simple endeavor, they succeeded. It is unfair to criticize an artist for not creating a work that was not intended to be created, so enjoy this one for what it is. The Men are having a blast delivering an album that feels comfortable, and for the most part, the audience can have just as much fun rocking out to it.