Mar 28, 2013

new men masquerading as REAL old men (2013)


Though their deal was always theft, their gift was a punk rock recklessness towards punk rock conservatism and an understanding that both theft and recklessness could be used as tools for an unconventional refinement. New Moon is their most refined effort in that sense because it's their most brutishly, apparently offensively, reckless record yet. And as always it's about heritage.

Odd that those defending The Men's SST classics comp sound/continuity can't seem to shake the feeling that on New Moon they're taking the piss, presumably simulating the effect that a Let it Be, New Day Rising, Sister, or Green Mind release might've had in the era from which The Men so liberally take, and said supporters so glorify. If it's a trick then it's complex- is it weeding out punk rock conservatives by declaring from its first breath that it won't fulfill any of our expectations after Open Your Heart by sounding kind of like a drunken rehearsal of Til the Morning Comes? It mattered on Open Your Heart when they aped Stiff Little Fingers as if to declare THERE WILL BE NO L.A.D.O.C.H., and I'd say it matters here too. As with Turn it Around, they're concerned with honesty: what Open the Door does is sort of warn that they're exploring or paying respect to the ragged/self-destructive ancestry of the indie punk they for three albums plundered and recreant critics so celebrated.

What this means is a work and sound ethic inspired by Neil Young's 'looseness'- human error, and simplicity as a means to reinvigorate rock n roll, and Alex Chilton's subversive fuckupery- deconstructed rock n roll providing multiple angles from which to experience it- the musician's feels and the critic's snort, among others. Young's influence occurs whenever they'd otherwise just sound like Dino Jr or Wilco, and while Chilton is ever-present in the band's primitivist ridiculousness, the clearest audible nod and indication of their self-awareness is in Without a Face, its jarring harmonica recalling Radio City's Life is White. Then just as everything points towards collapse, the band jolts back sort of reminding us that it'll only be through the lens of 80s designer chaos and a 2010s perspective of that that we'll ever be able to witness it (whether they head into Third territory next is anyone's guess). As much as such a progression would make sense, they sound fine being just on the brink of punk rock devastation.

Smartly critic proof (in time), they've paid their dues and managed to piss off those who've grown too comfortable identifying with punk rock revisionists of decades past. New Moon is a shambles, respectfully, which strengthens the roots of their art as the band explore the vulnerabilities, headaches, and in spite of that, appeal, of the antecedents to their influences. Attractive or not, New Moon is a reflective detour or like sensitively planned identity crisis from a band who'd previously appealed in their image of carefree thieves and forgers. Unexpected, but smart, funny, affecting, and bold.

A

try / buy

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