New York City
The Men’s ninth LP optimises the real primal essence of rock ‘n’ roll. ‘New York City’ is the sound of four people in a room capturing the raw intensity of their sweat and sinew live show. Over the last 15 years the quartet have traversed a broad musical landscape, with their sonic net drawing in styles from the likes of punk and hardcore, country and alt-rock, whereas their latest offering is arguably their most straight-forward to date.
Recorded in the Big Apple just as the world was put on a temporary pause in 2020, ‘New York City’ was born in its namesake metropolitan area with the swagger and attitude you’d want and expect from one of Earth’s most infamous cities. There’s a rough ‘n’ ready grubbiness to The Men’s newest instalment or as the band have remarked “when everyone left NYC, the sewer opened and we crawled out.” ‘New York City’ is an LP that very rarely pauses for breath as it hurtles through its frantic, and at times, guttural 10 tracks. ‘Hard Livin’’ sets the tone as it bursts into life via a stream of rasped vocals, punchy drums and meaty riffs. A liberal dollop of honky-tonk piano injects a cocksure brashness and a hip-wiggling funkiness too. If The Men were attempting to encapsulate a plug ‘n’ play aesthetic, this opening track is that to a tee. Subsequent number ‘Peace of Mind’ follows on without coming up for air. It’s here, amongst the gnarled fretwork and crashing cymbals, where The Men bare their fleshy underbelly, which is a stark contrast to the sonic arrogance on display. “You’re wasting your life/trying to find peace of mind” and “the years have crept up on you/just like everyone else/you’re a fraction of your former self” project a tired vulnerability and a relatable nuance most will agree with after the last few years socio-environmental-political-and-everything-else-in-between-turmoil. This kind-of palpable openness is sprinkled throughout ‘New York City’, as ‘Round The Corner’s acerbic, angle-grinder-esque noise drops the pace for something slower and altogether more menacing. A gravelled vocal can be heard declaring, “there’s a war/a war dragging on” which is all too apt given the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Whereas the rapid sprint of ‘God Bless the USA’ sounds less like a tribute to the supposed Land of the Free and more of a stark missive aimed at the heart of the country’s on-going unrest. There’s a quasi-religious undertone to the album that suits its tumultuous aesthetic too. ‘Echo’ comes out swinging with a sound that’s full of rowdy drums, rusted guitar licks and a demonic preacher bellowing about “a baptism of fire/from your head to your toes”. A loose groove and less intense ‘Eternal Recurrence’ flips the script for something more evangelical, as angelic backing vocals envelope a repeated “I want to believe” coda.
If the record starts as if it’s attempting the one hundred metres at a world record pace, ‘New York City’s final third is a slower, less abrasive affair that leans further towards the group’s penchant for an alt-country twang. This is typified by ‘Anyway I Find You’s isolated, mournful hue and the elongated groove of album closer ‘River Flows’.
The Men, rather anonymously, have spent the last decade and a half bending and breaking rock ‘n’ roll to their own agenda and ‘New York City’ proves that when they strip everything back to basics they still maintain their own insatiable raw power.
Pre-order New York City by The Men HERE
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