Music Reviews
Devil Music

The Men Devil Music

(We Are the Men) Rating - 6/10

The Men are disciplined musicians who like to hide their smarts. For anyone who's ever experience their ferocious, unrehearsed live performances prior to their peak phase, there was always this suspicion that the Brooklyn four-piece would go back to writing scorching rockers and completely dismiss their more marketable sound. But go back to 2012’s Open Your Heart and it’s rather obvious how the The Men’s sudden rise wasn’t just a fluke - the more enhanced recording quality gave them the opportunity to experiment with melody and structure, and not once did they compromise their raucous leanings.

They didn’t stop there. The Men followed it with New Moon, a more even-keeled effort where they bow to rock traditionalism with the highest regard. It was an approach they fully realized with the vastly overlooked Tomorrow’s Hits, a fairly unpredictable batch of dad rock bangers and heartland rock that gave the impression that they were cleaning up their act for good. It was rare to see how a band who always emphasized resilience and spontaneity also had the chops, and the actual desire, to write memorable songs without pushing forth some didactic manifesto on rock’s essentials.

With The Men, what you see is what you get. And holding on to their convictions with a complete disregard of rock’s rising trends is part of the agenda. There are challenges involved to stepping back, though, seeing as making their way back into the garage could put them on a dangerous path down to indie rock irrelevancy. Despite its occasional merits, who even gave last Male Bonding record a chance. But the answer is right there with Devil Music opener Dreamer: those sunburned guitar leads and ramshackle solos are proof that The Men just want to take a piss on your nearby 300-capacity venue and do it a hundred times over.

Dreamer also features a grimy, hollow production that also shapes the rest of Devil Music. It’s also indicative of how much of their input shows on the finished product - not only did they put it out through their own means, but they also decided to record it without their longtime producer Ben Greenberg. There’s a primal naturalness to the album that could initially put off those who were introduced to The Men post-Leave Home, as tracks like Crime and Lion’s Den strike with feral screams and sludgy, out-of-step guitar licks. The more measured Gun fares more poorly, which borrows a Crazy Horse riff and runs it to the ground with some godawful vocals to boot. Nevertheless, this “glorified demos” feel to the material is an apt choice for them considering their shapeshifting songwriting dynamics. 

Something tells me there’s something bigger looming for The Men in the future, but for now it’s nice to see them just jam out in a way that resembles their former noisier bearings. As expected, they play with faultless certitude, but when you put into perspective how much they’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time it also comes across as if they’re limiting themselves for no apparent reason. Devil Music sounds like a compilation of unpolished ideas taken from scrapped recording sessions, and though it highlights The Men at their best it also portrays them as lazy underachievers. And they’re too smart to be labeled as such.