Sometimes I think maybe there’s such a prevailing mythos surrounding the very embryogenesis of anything ’80s-sounding that people hearing it will wield this kind of vengeful adoration of it, as if to shun all things that would sit culturally counter to it. Why do I say this? Heck. Rob Sheffield called David Bowie the best rock star of all time (granted, part of his reasoning in this was said artist’s ability to basically be fake, more or less).
I mean I’ve just never SUNK IN to a Bowie song the way I have Neil Young’s “Thrasher” or Lou Reed’s “Busload of Faith,” to say nothing of John Lennon and Chuck Berry — it seems like, yeah, what Sheffield said. The sheen is the substance. The shell is the soul.
Anyway, as you should have guessed by now, the new album by The Men, traditionally a pop/punk band out of Brooklyn, went The Breeders route big time and endorsed a very spooky, gothy and echo-heavy brand of alternative rock for the albeit very listenable opener on their 2018 offering Drift. To be specific, the guitar duo of Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi bring in a whammy bar to preside over the whole proceedings, muffling the sound the on the production level in an interesting, eerie and vaguely apocalyptic way which will call to mind the genre of jazz or the band Radiohead. Gone is the simplistic pop crunchiness — things are darker and infinitely more ethereal. As always with The Men, too, the lyrics are awesome: “In the city that never sleeps / They’re serving chicken over rice / Maybe I’m crazy”, the sense of panic yielding logically from all the returned normalcy the singer is facing in his everyday life, amidst the illusion, or the proposition, of transcendence. (I was partial to that one song by them that went “I saw a man without a face / I think about him everyday” — whether or not that actually happened, as it were.)
Strikingly and problematically, “Maybe I’m Crazy” seems to be not only the sole good song on Drift (the rest of which granted certainly does drift along), but also a stark stylistic anomaly, the rest of it ranging from median pop/rock which is as conventional as their name, to this frighteningly boring little niche of indie/rock/folk/Americana that they’d brooded toward on past albums but bulwarked typically with enough energy that you at least forgave them for having no sonic quirks whatsoever. The Men are sad. So are a lot of people. If Drift proves anything, it’s that music probably isn’t going to be the solution to this malady.