Spin an album by the Men, and you might mistake it for a multiband comp: The Brooklyn group swaps singers and shuffles styles at will. This can be disorienting—on first encountering 2012’s Open Your Heart, the third Men LP, this writer found himself bummed that breathlessly anthemic opener “Turn It Around” was an anomaly rather than a tone-setter. But after multiple plays, the record’s scattershot quality started to seem like a masterstroke—why shouldn’t a twangy, chilled-out instrumental follow a raucous noise-punk meltdown? Unlike, say, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, which reveals itself all at once, Open Your Heart is a tough nut, well worth cracking.
Like its predecessor, the Men’s latest, New Moon, refuses to sit still. There’s a country-rock current running through the album—“Open the Door” and “High and Lonesome” pick up where rootsy Open Your Heart highlight “Candy” left off—but it also touches on fuzz-blasted melodic punk (“Electric”) and noisy psychedelic sprawl (“Supermoon”). New Moon incorporates a new Man: guitarist Ben Greenberg, known for his avant-leaning work with Zs and Hubble. But even though Greenberg sings lead on a couple tracks, in a clear-toned style that’s miles from the belligerent bellow of former member Chris Hansell, the transition feels seamless—further evidence of the band’s ingeniously inclusive aesthetic. This week’s record-release gig, featuring New Moon bassist and pedal-steel player Kevin Faulkner, is the perfect chance to sample the Men’s eclectic wares. Find your own through line…or better yet, leave the dots unconnected.—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing