The Men, Tomorrow’s Hits

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 03.04.14 in Reviews

For the past three years, the Long Island punk transplants the Men have released an album in the first week in March. Their diligence suggests a work ethic all too rare these days. You might even call it workmanlike and, increasingly, as they move toward classic ’60s rock and country — Workingman’s Dead-like. But with every release, the Men put their noisy hardcore past further in the rear view.

Striking the right balance between rock’s collective past and the band’s own

Which is not to say they’ve abandoned their roots; if anything, the Men have embraced their Pabst Blue Ribbon/blue collar heritage wholly with their fifth album, Tomorrow’s Hits. But more often than not, that means sounding less like Brooklyn’s hard-rock saviors and more like a bar band bashing out Foghat covers in Peoria. Traces of KZEP staples ranging from the Band to BTO to the Nuge pop up throughout the album. Opener “Dark Waltz” cops to Bob Seeger, country rock, the Band’s “Shape I’m In,” with bits of banjo and piano appearing in the din.

Strangely, where Tomorrow’s Hits falters is in the collective weakness of the vocals from all three songwriters. “Get What You Give” sounds creaky and off-key. And while the rave-ups of piano and bleating horns on “Another Night” evoke no less than The Boss, the ragged vocals fall a little short of the grandeur.

In the album’s middle section, the Men strike the right balance between rock’s collective past and the band’s own. Album highlight “Different Days” is as furious a rocker as anything they’ve done. In its mixture of pedal steel, barreling piano and harmonica, “Sleepless” creates a rough-cut elegance that could be an outtake from the Flamin’ Groovies’ Teenage Head. And the driving rocker “Pearly Gates” re-imagines Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited blues-rock as rendered by Funhouse-era Stooges. It’s the type of thing you want to scream along to on a Saturday night, no matter where your bar is.