The Men - Tomorrow's Hits

This week, two primal, grizzled, loud, messy rock albums come out, and I had a hell of a time choosing between them. I’m still not sure I made the right call. The self-titled debut from the Leeds punk band Eagulls has “Possessed,” the best song on either album, and it has a clarity and an energy that Tomorrow’s Hits, the latest from the New York band the Men, never really bothers to approach. But Tomorrow’s Hits has reach and variation and some sense of rhythmic swing, qualities to which Eagulls cannot lay claim. It was a tough call. And I’m not going to lie to you: Part of the reason I’m giving this one to the Men is that I feel bad for not giving it to past Men albums. The Men are five albums in now, a new one regularly arrives every year, and all of them are worth hearing. They all play out like chapters in one long continuous story, one that starts with lurching, ugly hardcore and which is moving incrementally toward classic-rock majesty. Tomorrow’s Hits probably isn’t the best album of the bunch; that’s probably still 2012′s acrid and merciless Leave Home. So maybe you should consider this the Men’s lifetime-achievement Album Of The Week — our equivalent of the Academy granting Al Pacino an Oscar for Scent Of A Woman or Martin Scorsese one for The Departed. But Tomorrow’s Hits, in its own right, is an admirably scuzzy piece of drunken roadhouse blooz, and it deserves its own plaudits, on its own merits. It’s a back-alley blare that deserves to be heard, and that’s ultimately why it’s in this column this week.

Tomorrow’s Hits is a funny name for this album, since none of its songs has the slightest chance of ever becoming anyone’s idea of a hit, and since the album never carries the tiniest echo of anyone’s idea of a possible future. Instead, the album is a retro echo of a retro echo. After all, it’s been almost exactly 20 years since Primal Scream turned the Rolling Stones’ idea of Southern boogie — an idea that was then decades old — into drunken splooge on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. On Tomorrow’s Hits, the Men take Primal Scream’s knocked-around idea of that sound and knock it around even more, until it’s a bloody mass of broken teeth and regrets. It’s been a curious evolution for the Men over the past five years, starting with New York underground-rock grit-and-grind and gradually working in all these classicist ideas and poses. But along the way, the band hasn’t really become any friendlier.

The innovation of Tomorrow’s Hits — and it isn’t really an innovation at all — is to turn that classic-rock wall-of-boogie sound into controlled chaos. They’ve got keyboards and horn-honks poking out in every generation these days, but they’re still just as mean and ornery and dangerous as they were when they were imagining some combination of Unsane and Suicide and early Sonic Youth. Consider “Pearly Gates,” the album’s righteous rave-up of a first single. This is clearly the work of a small army of musicians recording in a single room together, and even though it’s a controlled and tightly arranged groove — all the musicians heating up and cooling down, with assurance, at the right moments — it still stumbles like an ungainly Frankenstein’s monster, especially when it really gets going. As the song is hitting its climax, guitars and horns and pianos are drunkenly blundering in every possible direction while frontman Nick Chiericozzi is raggedly whooping with near-wordless aplomb: “Oh! Oh! Ohhhaaaow!” The everything-going-at-once buzz is something that we rarely hear in the era of Pro-Tools, and we get some of that old Blonde On Blonde/Exile On Main Street feeling: “What is that organ doing there?” Or: “Why is everyone still playing at once?” There is, after all, harmonica on this album. A lot of it. But the Men don’t use all that mess to create beauty, the way Dylan or the Stones so often did. Instead, they specialize in a sort of mean-mugging squalor, keeping all the sharp edges poking out. It’s invigorating, but it ain’t exactly pretty.

On Tomorrow’s Hits, as on all their albums, the Men care more about grooves and riffs than they do about songs — and, in fact, they may be trending more in that direction with every successive release. Chiericozzi isn’t much of a singer, and when you go to see the Men live, the guys in the band give off a distinct sense that they can’t wait to stop singing so that they can get back to doing the thing where everyone plays solos simultaneously. Even when they conjure up something resembling prettiness — “Get What You Give” could be a distant inbred cousin of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” — they’re clearly just building up to their monumentally satisfying moments of guttural splurge. But they do that guttural splurge so well that you almost don’t need the melody. We’ve got no shortage of bands, after all, who can write a catchy hook, but only a few bands can do this sort of weaponized lurch. And with Tomorrow’s Hits, the Men have found yet another context for that lurch, something they never fail to do.

After all, Tomorrow’s Hits comes out a year, almost to the day, after New Moon, their last album — and that one came out almost exactly a year after Open Your Heart. Each album builds, just slightly, on the ideas of its predecessors, but all of them leave open the possibility that the band could just as easily shoot off in any other direction. There’s a distinct possibility that the next time early March rolls around, the Men will give us a new album that launches them into straight up Black Crowes territory. Or they could just as easily point themselves back toward the guttural, dirt-encrusted postpunk of their early days. But there’s something very cool about the way the band releases albums as annual check-ups: Showing us just exactly where they are on their artistic trajectory, with each new record showing us a sign of what this band can do. And every year, we learn all over again that they can do a whole fucking lot.

Tomorrow’s Hits is out now on Sacred Bones. Stream it here.

Other albums of note out this week:

• Real Estate’s glimmering, surefooted Atlas.
• Pharrell’s sparse, rhythmically smart, eminently friendly G I R L.
• Rick Ross’s soggy, overstuffed mogul-rap onslaught Mastermind.
• Eagulls’ aforementioned self-titled throwdown.
• Linda Perhacs’s incandescent decades-late return The Soul Of All Natural Things.
• Nothing’s loud, toothy shoegazer Guilty Of Everything.
• Drive-By Truckers’ seasoned Southern-rocking English Oceans.
• Eternal Summers’ sparkling twee-popper The Drop Beneath.
• Trust’s sinister club-pop move Joyland.
• Morbus Chron’s darkly ambitious death-metaller Sweven.
• Lushes’ cerebral post-rock debut What Am I Doing.
• Ava Luna’s idiosyncratic DIY indie-R&B debut Electric Balloon.
• Color War’s moody, melodic wallow It Could Only Be This Way.
• Stone Jack Jones’s ambient folk zone-out Ancestor.
• Each Other’s glitchy, sideways debut Being Elastic.
• Wild Throne’s clean, complex metal attack Blood Maker.
• Psalm Zero’s dark, proggy kinda-metal debut The Drain.
• Weeknight’s elegant synthpop debut Post Everything.
• Nai Harvest’s Hold Open My Head EP.
• Holy Child’s Mindspeak EP.
• Au Revoir Simone’s brightness/contrast remix EP.

Comments (37)
  1. Glad you picked this one. It’s right up there with Open Your Heart for me – a little more assured with less stylistic variety, but the grooves are outstanding. The Men are so on top of what they do and so prolific that they’re already starting to become underrated (I think Ian Cohen said something about a “rut”). These guys will keep churning stuff out and there will likely be less and less people around to hear it each time. That’s too bad, they might actually be getting better.

  2. fuck redacted blah blah blah, I agree with his review of this. I wish Rick Ross had this spot, but I understand why the ‘Gum didn’t like it.

    • Let’s stop taking jabs at [REDACTED]. You don’t have to agree with what he writes or what he steers review scores towards, but is it not a stupid practice to vilify someone because their opinions are so different than yours, even if they have a pattern of being on an entirely different page? In reading through web history, there have been way too many open letters, fake Twitter accounts, tumblr blogs and other forms of public cutdowns of his work, and I can’t help but feel some empathy for the guy, who is supporting himself through the use of his words and music. It must get very tiring after awhile to constantly be the guy people “hate,” and when the foundation of their hostility is your beliefs — Well, no wonder he’s hardened toward public perception.

      I stumbled upon his public facebook page a little while back, and there was one picture of himself which he took aim at something Stereogum readers had said here reflected in his comments to it. The guy shouldn’t have to live a life where things said on the Internet impact him personally once off the clock, even if it’s just to defend himself, shrug it off and make like he doesn’t care.

      The Internet is such a stupid vacuum.

      Sorry, Ian.

      • I don’t think the jabs are inherently bad. Ian seemed capable of laughing at himself the way he did that video where he reviewed candy bars a year or two ago. And eighteenk’s jab seemed more at us than at Ian. But this is the internet where things tend to get real ugly real quickly.

        • I understand eighteenk’s jab was in jest, but I just wanted to say something about the subject because I myself was part of that particular hazing and upon looking more into it, I didn’t like what I saw. You are right that things on the Internet get real ugly really quickly. I know it’s asking for a lot, but we’re all basically strangers, and you never really do know what’s going behind the scenes in a person’s life, so while a bunch of arguing, insensitive comments may seem inconsequential to the person writing them, you just never know if they’ve struck a personal nerve with whomever is on the receiving end of them.

      • Did you get unbanned?

  3. The Men are awesome, but the Truckers album deserves some album of the week shine, too.

  4. it’s all about Nothing for me this week

    …god, that sounds depressing. but yeah, that album destroys.

  5. I absolutely LOVE this album. And I loved New Moon last year as well.

    Frankly, I don’t understand how anyone can dislike an album like this. The sound is impeccable, there are more hooks than I can count, and its remarkably consistent from beginning to end.

    I consider The Men like Woods and maybe Thee Oh Sees. Do we just begin to ignore consistency if we just keep getting it year after year?

  6. Frankie Cosmos.

    • I was intrigued by the charming simplicity of her work, but the Pitchfork Rising article on her just hit and I felt like the entire time, it was trying to ignore the revelation that she’s actually the daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates without fessing up to how that’s put her a stark advantage in comparison to other DIY musicians. I don’t know how I feel about it entirely, but right now, it’s kind of a buzz kill for me. I’m sure there are other musicians out there who I listen to that come from celebrity or well to-do families, but add in that DIY ethos are usually a thing for people who do so because they literally don’t have the means to make a career for themselves otherwise, and her entire shtick just seems very vanity to me.

      • Sorry, I forgot to finish my thought: If I can help avoiding another wannabe art kid who already has their life financials all set so even if they fail at their project, it won’t spell doom for them, in the long run, I will. It’s just something I do out of principal, and I can already hear the argument about needing to separate the art from the artist or whatever. Why not I just devote my attention to some kids out there who are certifiably starving for their art.

        • Considering that her parents are both actors, and actors are quite possibly the most awful people on the planet, she she should actually be commended for not becoming a model, or an actor or herself. But instead making pretty rad music. I actually liked her more when I found that out, and I absolutely hate all actors. The fact that two of them could make a pretty cool kid is astonishing to me.

          • Her online personality is unbearable. On Twitter, she can’t form full sentences, mocks coverage she gets and generally seems like an aloof wealthy art kid who — at the great advantage she’s at — doesn’t even appreciate it. This sentence in the interview ruffled my feathers the most:

            “I like that people sometimes ask if I’m from the suburbs. It’s a way better vibe over there; everyone is purely nice, there’s nothing fake going on. I like to take on the folkie attitude.”

            Nice to know that my every day real life is your fashion statement, kid…

          • i don’t know her music at all, but the thought that “there’s nothing fake going on” in the suburbs is so hilarious and naive that i can’t even take it seriously

      • Wow, I felt the exact same way. Once I read that, my whole perception of her (unfortunately) changed. The music is still great, and of course that IS THE POINT. But still, like you said, there’s no risk in her music endeavor. Her dad is like, a pretty famous actor….but I’m trying not to let this influence my listening experience because that album is pretty awesome.

        • I hadn’t yet fallen in too deep in love with her work and like you said, it isn’t all that original, so it’s a clean break before the relationship gets serious, complicated and potentially messy. More than anything, I’m irked about her facade of being some DIY songwriter for the cassette culture crowd who wears that entire aesthetic like a fashion trend. And you wonder why people outside of NYC have this perception that Brooklyn is just a bunch of rich kids dressing in thrift store clothes pretending to be bohemians.

  7. This week, I think there’s no better album than Tomorrow Hits (try to understand that amazing The War on Drugs album, in “real world”, has not been released yet), and I’m happy The Men gets some extra attention, because this is that kind of band which doesn’t make mistakes. With a discography like that, it’s really hard week to recognize which one is their better album.

  8. After hearing a good SQ version of Pharrell’s G I R L it’s baffling me that some publications are beating it to a pulp. It’s a very light and fun yet very focused album. If it has to be THE album the masses play during summer parties and hang outs then we should all be so lucky.

  9. Still listening to it but I am enjoying it. Good write up, these guys really do deserve it. I really enjoyed seeing them live on the heels of Open your Heart, and just realized that they were road testing songs that made it on THIS album. These guys don’t stand still very long that is for sure.

  10. Between this and the Pitchfork review, I can’t believe there’s been no mention of “Settle Me Down.” That song kills me time and time again.

  11. I dig this album.

  12. Boy, was I wrong!
    Just want to remind you guys that Eagulls’ album also rocks!

    And Pharrell is fun and all, but it gives me nothing – give me sunshine and an ocean, and I’ll reconsider.

  13. I guess I’ll be the only detractor on this one and risk the down votes. I for one found this album a considerable step down, even from New Moon which saw the band really move toward a jam band feel. I heard some of these songs played last year at a show, and instantly feared what this album would sound like.

    I’m a fan of Leave Home more, and this is far removed from that sound. They seemed less predictable back then, and what they do now seems far safer and accessible.

    Regardless, I preferred Nothing and Real Estate this week.

    • Yeah that Real Estate record is great.

      I like this Men album OK, but I can see how a big fan of their early stuff can be nothing but frustrated that they’ve turned so far away from that sound.

  14. This album is just some good old fashioned fun, eh?

    Thanks for the reminder of this release… if not for this being AOTW, I might have missed it. Been neck deep in the new War on Drugs.

  15. Finally! I really love this album.

  16. Totally agreed with this AOTW pick, well-deserved…

    …but am I the only one super enjoying Trust’s Joyland? I feel like it’s kind of getting overlooked this week, which is a shame. It’s so dark and synth-y, absolutely love it… and it definitely has been the perfect pairing to my cold, cloudy, snow-ridden commutes to work.

  17. I don’t know where else to put this, but I finally looked up Lost in the Dream on Grooveshark (I don’t know where to find these “leaks” everyone speaks of), and I’m in the middle of “Suffering” and I’m DROWNING in feels. Can’t wait till this comes out, I’m gonna buy a physical copy.

    Anyway, I like the Men and Real Estate too.

  18. Another underrated gem

  19. So happy to see them getting some love around here! Definitely one of the most consistent bands of the day, churning out great albums and never reaching that uppermost indie sphere. Maybe it’s what helps keep them consistent?

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