Evolution. Sometimes it’s a hard thing. Leaving aside the charged debate here in the U.S. over evolution versus intelligent design, when bands evolve there is always the risk that they’ll lose some of the fans that were with them at the beginning. While I think that some bands or artists can remain fulfilled and can produce excellent work while sticking, basically, to the same formula; many others, I think, need to evolve to avoid becoming stale.
Take Brooklyn’s, The Men, for example. They’ve evolved — and “evolved” is the right word, as it implies a slow, rather than an abrupt or sudden, change — from the sludgy and shoegazey punk beauty of Immaculada and Leave Home to Open Your Heart, which mixed songs that retained that early sound with songs inspired by icons like The Rolling Stones, The Replacements, and The Velvet Undergound, to New Moon, which incorporates lap steel, mandolin, piano, and harmonica to bring new energy to the sounds of rock’s past.
According to the write-up over at Sacred Bones, the band’s label, The Men left the city for the Catskills to record New Moon. Songs like album-opener “Open the Door,” “I Saw Her Face,” “High and Lonesome,” and “Bird Song” represent the biggest departures from The Men’s early sound and bring in some of the twang and space of that country setting. The guitar solo that starts at about the three-and-a-half minute mark of “I Saw Her Face” grows Neil Young-ish in its epicness, before finally closing out the song in more Open Your Heart style.
Fans of The Men’s harder edges will find things to like in “The Brass” and “Electric.” The band go pop-punk on “Freaky” and close the record with full-on, psych-punk freakout “Supermoon.”
Classic rock — as a sound and not a bunch of songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s — is experiencing a bit of a resurgence lately. Foxygen produced an excellent record this year by mining some of the same influences, like Dylan, The Stones and The Velvet Underground, that The Men draw from on New Moon. While Foxygen have sprinkled in a bit of Bowie to glam up their sound, The Men retain some of the elements of their own early work to give things a rough edge.
The Men are evolving. They may lose a small number of fans who simply refuse to evolve along with them, but New Moon is the band’s most mature and accomplished album yet and will draw in plenty of new listeners. New Moon also has its own part to play in the evolution of a sound that’s been with us for almost half a century.