I’ve been listening to a lot of bands lately that are rocking a ’60s new wave edge. Sounds seemingly ripped straight from the swinging world of Antonioni’s Blow Up: The Wavves. The Muslims. Beach Fossils. They’re taking that fast-paced, kinetic sound of yesteryear and making it new. Making it their own. And I love them for that.
The theme of old-to-new came to mind when I checked out the just-released fourth studio album from The Men, called New Moon.
I can’t recall the last time I heard the piano play such a key part in an indie rock band’s sound. It’s as if it were new. When the first track, ‘Open the Door’, starts with a nice piano medley repeating over and over until the rest of the crew drops in with a nice drum riff, a slide guitar and Mark Perro’s vocals growling and grumbling along, the mood of the album is instantly set.
Or, at least, half of it is. . .
I remember reading once that Lennon called a bunch of McCartney’s songs “Grandma’s Doily songs”. You know the ones. . . Thankfully, when you put ‘Eleanor Rigby’ up against ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, well, at least you’ve got a mashup you can just enjoy instead of wanting one side to win out.
Part of New Moon is all road music and deserts and starlight and booze. As I was listening to ‘I Saw Her Face’ I was inspired to just start free-form writing. This is what came out:
guitars crash in. give me a cigarette. i have blood on my hands. could be anybody’s. changed tone in singer’s voice, takes it up a few octaves to mash in with the distorted guitars driving away the vultures circling in on the song. keeping something at bay. the wailing guitar means business. it’s keeping me going. I feel like I could write a whole movie to this song.
“I feel like I could write a whole movie to this song.”
That’s no small feat. Trust me.
However, cue the middle of the album, ‘The Brass’, ‘Electric’, and ‘I See No One’ shake that thematic potential. They are fast-paced, punk-rock tracks designed to either broaden appeal, or are simply songs (some of?) the band enjoy. Two very distinct sounds brought together. Were the punk numbers not bookended by the thematic saloon rock of the rest of the album they would be notable accomplishments on their own. Instead, they are chapters inserted in an otherwise venom-soaked ride; a melange, regardless, still enjoyable.
When ‘Bird Song’ drops back in and reminds you of the moody trip you thought you were in for, you’ll welcome the return, but potentially lament the detour the album took. ‘Freaky’ is a nice attempt to bring both styles together with some crashing symbols, a tight riff and beat, but by this point I’m all mixed up.
Thankfully, there’s ‘Supermoon’. An eight-minute mini-odyssey with heavy guitars, driving drums, and the occasional indulgence into distortion land. It serves as a great conclusion to the journey under this New Moon.