Each of the last three years has produced a new album from Brooklyn’s The Men, and each of those albums has only increased the cultish glow of adoration for the fervent rock band, which has proven itself both capable and uncompromising. Like the subjects of Michael Azerrad’s ’80s-underground bible, Our Band Could Be Your Life — a book The Men would’ve been featured in had they been making music 30 years ago — this is a band that believes in the saving grace of a sweaty, anthemic rock song.
Which makes New Moon all the more puzzling at first. “What <em>is</em> this? The new Elton John?” one would be forgiven for asking upon gentle, strum-und-piano-drang leadoff track “Open the Door.” A direct result of two weeks’ worth of cabin-and-campfire recording in the Catskills, New Moon has tracks like this one, but also like the one-two-three punch of “The Seeds,” “I Saw Her Face” and “High and Lonesome,” which call to mind Faces/Kinks jangle, Neil Young warble and Yo La Tengo, respectively. All of which is a precedent to the hardcore stomp of “The Brass” and the Sonic Youthian groove of “Electric,” so maybe these guys aren’t actually stepping as far outside the underground as it seems.
Of course, The Men are no strangers to genre dabbling, as these last three albums have shown. Much like another Our Band alum, The Replacements, they’re damn proficient at it. Following the madness of Immaculada, Leave Home was a leaf-turner: this band could dip out of the sludge to write songs, however difficult. Open Your Heart was a revelation: This band could crank out Buzzcockian pop and fist-pumping guitar jams. New Moon emerges now as an exciting transition, an anticipatory vision of how we’ll describe whatever’s next. While imperfect, it’s hard to argue with a record whose sole purpose seems to be seducing the listener into wanting more, and in that regard, New Moon is an unabashed winner.