Music Reviews

The Men Mercy

(Sacred Bones) Rating - 5/10

With eight years since their breakthrough album, Open Your Heart, The Men haven’t had a narrative fit them comfortably. The Brooklyn four-piece's 2012 release was the sort of mid-2010s overpraised rock/punk statement that seems to have left behind—seemingly cornered beside the provocative moves of Titus Andronicus or the grand theatrics of Fucked Up. Their eighth album, Mercy, isn’t a project that’s going to help them with that legacy. Even though The Men have noted their Americana and folk influences in the past, this album feels like a deliberately tame and wishy-washy project that could only drive away fans.

At its strongest moments, you can make out its appealing qualities. But at its weakest, you start to understand why they announced the album with a blog post that said: “Wait, they’re still a band?” Aside from the haunting Fallin’ Thru, with its sparse piano notes and whispery vocals, Mercy is a broken-down, mostly acoustic album that only feels empty. The clearest example of that is the lengthy Wading in Dirty Water, a song that feels like a build-up to something greater until it ends. With its muddy organ and guitars, the song feels like it should have a climax, but it fades away before falling apart. At least they provide a little bit of power on Children All Over The World, marrying Neil Young-like guitar licks and bright 80s synths.

Still, the only moment that Mercy truly feels like something off Open Your Heart is Breeze, a short punk barn-burner that explodes with pure rage. The album ends on a shrug with the acoustic, guitar-centered title track, a song that attempts to sound truly scary and broken—but it just feels try-hard and ultimately weak. With the echoing refrain of “Did you ever really care?” someone’s got to tell this dude that the answer isn’t going to be the one he wants to hear.