Who are The Men? Tough to say.
The Brooklynites’ signature sound is their lack of one. Since 2008, they’ve dabbled in belligerent noise, astral psychedelia, streamlined prog, even acoustic folk.
Operating at a clip rarely seen since hardcore punk’s Reagan-era heyday, they’ll issue “Tomorrow’s Hits,” their fourth full-length in as many years, this Tuesday.
Such prolificacy is notable, but is it enough?
Where 2011’s volatile, often terrifying “Leave Home” was the kind of record you’d put on to freak out your parents, the new album looks to recreate the 1960s and ‘70s rock they grew up with.
The Men have always packed a lot of influences into their songwriting. These days, they’re packing just as many instruments into the arrangements. Here, harmonica, saxophone and Mellotron join the foursome’s erstwhile two-guitars/bass/drums setup.
If the group has retained one aspect of the punkish approach it’s otherwise abandoned, it’s the tempos. Yet the shambolic bar-band boogie it prefers now doesn’t call for speed so much as hooks — and since “Hits” largely rejects traditional choruses in favor of extended jamming, The Men’s once-sharp sonics tumble into commotion.
“Pearly Gates” (listen) is the harshest example — like The E Street Band falling down a flight of stairs. Tender, jangly “Settle Me Down” (listen) and zydeco-flavored “Different Days” (listen) fare better, but the 37-minute set is altogether uneven.
As recently as 2012’s “Open Your Heart,” The Men seemed unstoppable. Two years and two lesser LPs later — 2013’s “New Moon” is the other — that initial promise is in jeopardy.
Perhaps it’s the rapid pace of their output. In that or any context, “Hits” is the sound of a good band in need of some quality control before a sell-by date takes it off the shelves.
Stream the whole album here.