Music

The Men: Tomorrow's Hits (take 1)

Tomorrow's Hits splits time between classic sway and punk fury. The two side are clearly divided, but the band itself seems lost in the middle between these two poles.


The Men

Tomorrow's Hits

US Release: 2014-03-04
Label: Sacred Bones
UK Release: 2014-03-03
Label Website
Amazon
iTunes

The Men have spent their career distorting what came before, so there's more than a little bit of a wink in the title of their latest, Tomorrow's Hits. 2011's Leave Home and 2012's Open Your Heart were literal with that distortion, blasting every punk and rock trope from the past 30 years they could get their hands on. Then last year's New Moon turned that same eye towards classic rock, with some folk and country mixed in. Their last release, the Campfire Songs EP turned their whole sound inside-out, taking the folk base of New Moon and a home recorded lo-fi ethos to extreme in five blurry, bittersweet tunes.

The common thread through these records, even as the sounds changed, was that the band held a funhouse mirror up to what came before and, in doing so, made the reflection theirs. Tomorrow's Hits splits time between classic sway and punk fury, and the two side are clearly divided, but the band itself seems lost in the middle between these two poles. The band used an honest-to-God studio for this record, and the polish of it brings their chops into light. Somewhere in some of these songs, though, the personality that delivered those chops before is lost.

The album opens with the jangling one-two of "Dark Waltz" and "Get What You Give". Both songs stretch out on rippling guitars, their hooks sweetened by light distortion and distant piano. If the first of the two casts a longer shadow, it still operates in the same country sweat as "Get What You Want". These are country-rock tunes that are nicely executed -- from the towering solo of "Dark Waltz" to the sweet, rundown chorus of "Get What You Give" -- and in that way honor a long classic rock tradition. "Another Night" puts the piano up front and beefs the proceedings up with a horn section straight off of E Street. It's a lively epic, stretching out over five minutes and working itself into a fever all along the way.

But then "Different Days" comes along and things change. This is a gritty rocker, charging ahead with punk fury. "I hate being young," Mark Perro screams on the song's huge chorus, and despite the fact that it turns on the youthful energy of the song, you believe him. The thing is, there's a convincing mix of exhaustion and desperation in that moment and in the excellent unruly song. It pairs nicely with the muddy rock riffs of "Pearly Gates", which melds blues-on-fire hooks with a Husker Du-like control of noisy melody, and closer "Going Down" which slices out space with its riffs and echoes effectively into those newfound gaps. These moments find the Men once again melding genre and twisting expectations. They also take tight workman-like hooks and expand them, creating songs that break past their borders into the exciting unknown.

Though they may not sound like it, these are the songs that most closely resemble the quiet Campfire Songs. That set, despite its quaint title, showed how lo-fi and home-recorded material could feel expansive rather than restrained, that intimacy could be epic. These songs do the same thing, albeit with much louder results. But where these songs find people stuck between youth and old age, unsure of where to go, if this is where they hate being young, the other songs here find them reaching too far to sound old. "Sleepless" is a toothless country thumper, and it runs out of energy much in the same way those first few songs on the record do.

The more classic-rock songs here show the Men doing the E Street shuffle instead of coming up with their own moves. They're reminding us this is nowhere instead of mapping out their own terrain. They're squatting at Big Pink instead of maintaining the homey feel of Campfire Songs. There's still a solid core to Tomorrow's Hits, one that cleans up the band's talents and puts them on display in innovative songs. Unfortunately, for every look forward on Tomorrow's Hits, there's another one still stuck in the past.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Film

In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?

Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.