Seven albums in ten years, that’s some good going, especially when the quality control is spot on. On paper you’d expect prolific NYCers, The Men, to churn out the same templated sound but given this is a group that are constantly challenging themselves, it’s not uncommon to find the outfit branching out into all manner of genres and sub-genres of rock and punk; hardcore, psych, surf, folk and everything in-between. The Men’s sixth record ‘Devil Music’ saw the unit recapture their punkier roots – they set to work over a January weekend to distil what came to them impulsively without the looming need to do promos, gigs or festivals. By wiping the slate clean, this gave The Men the appetite to tackle their seventh album with a refreshed ethos; essentially ‘Drift’ is (almost) anything goes and solidifies why the New York band are regarded as polymaths.
From the very start it’s clear The Men have shapeshifted once more, ‘Maybe I’m Crazy’ announces itself with a throbbing synth line and pulsating bass, with layers of warped saxophone sliding into the final third of the track. This is The Men venturing into some kind of weird, space funk with a jazz twist. Just when you think ‘Drift’ will be firing us to Saturn ‘When I Held You In My Arms’ strips everything back to the sound of lumbering bass and a delicate organ motif. Much like Bob Dylan fronting Pink Floyd, rich vocals are soon swept up by a proggy, psychedelic rush. It’s here where The Men expose their vulnerable, regretful side “with you I was some kind of human being” divulging a fleshy underbelly beneath their progressive experimentation.
With ‘Maybe I’m Crazy’ and ‘When I Held You In My Arms’ setting the tone for the eclectic, ‘Drift’ doesn’t stride back into the interstellar odyssey of the former but it does deliver an aesthetic that harness a new-found penchant for jazz arrangements – a la Iggy Pop’s ‘The Idiot’. The interplay between organ, sax and rhythmic drumming on ‘Secret Light’ is endearingly hypnotic. Elsewhere nods to Neil Young can be heard on the acoustic guitar, harmonica twinned ditty of ‘So High’, and the same can be said for the sunnier, more-straight forward strum-along of ‘Rose On Top Of The World’. An improvised, slow burning jam unravels on ‘Final Prayer’ which is more art-rock than punk-rock, while the album is brought to a close by ‘Come To Me’s repetitive strums and yearning shoegaze drones. In amongst the more leftfield moments on ‘Drift’ The Men find two and a half minutes to unleash their inner punk beast via the snarling ‘Killed Someone’ which is as ragged and visceral as its name suggests.
‘Drift’ is a boundary-less album made by a group that relish the chance to spread their influences far and wide.
Thoughts and words by Adam Williams