Written by: Eric Thompson
This music was made to be played at the dive bar. Not the over-dark, sad kind, though. No, we’re talking the well lit but dirty place you go to because, well goddamn, when was the last time we had a bad time in there. The type of joint where the regulars can’t help feeding money into the jukebox once they get going, and, if there is a band in the house, they ain’t afraid to do some stomping and slamming on that dance floor. And you’d better believe they’d be up close to that stage, beers in hand for The Men. This right here is reveling music.
The Men formed in Brooklyn in 2008. Tomorrow’s Hits will be their fifth full length album released in as many years. They’ve also put out more than a few singles, EP’s, and even cassettes in that time. They write and tour relentlessly. Which is exactly why their musical delirium is so catching. They have honed this. The reason all those regulars get up off their stools and start yelling at the stage is because The Men took the time to figure out just how to make them do it.
“My mom gave me this guitar / Nineteen and seventy-four, it’s true / Now there’s nothing I’d rather do.” Those are the first lines in what begins as a straight rocker. Hearing the first part of “Dark Waltz,” one might almost think the Brooklyn punk band is going garage. Things quickly take a turn towards the seedy, though. “Mom’s brother Bill played drums / Sold weed and he carried a gun, it’s true / A really mean son of a bitch too,” we get in the second verse. But it’s all in good fun. The latter half of the track is taken up with a two minute, twenty second distortion-blitz jam. The guitar owns this space. But there’s some felicitous piano making itself heard in that din as well. And some of the dirtiest harmonica this side of that biker bar out by the county line. These prolonged jams jump out and grab you throughout the album, and, in each of them, you can just see these guys smiling at each other as they hit the groove. If “Dark Waltz” is the song that makes those regulars at the bar take notice, then “Different Days” is the one that keys them into just how magnificently whiskey soaked and frenetic this night is going to get. The song starts with a driving bass line and various members of the band bellowing inarticulately in the background. The drums kick in for the ride and, a few measures later, we also pick up that noise laden guitar and some organ. This is where things start picking up some downhill speed. “And I’m waiting for the sign to fade.” By the time we get to the end of another protracted fuzz-fest, we just know it: this is going to get joyously out of control. But not just yet. “Sleepless” follows immediately after, and it’s just a sweet jaunt of a tune. A rolling piano melody takes the lead with this one. “Trying so hard to drift away.” We almost could if it weren’t for what’s preceded this. But this song might as well be warning us to take a second, get another drink, because shit’s about to get wild.
And then comes “Pearly Gates.” Yeah, those pearly gates. Everyone at this kick ass party died and now we’re gonna riot in heaven. Holy crap. This is six-plus minutes of distortion driven barbaric yawp. And The Men are sounding it over the roofs of every wooden shingled booze shack ever built. Seriously, just click the link and listen to this thing. And turn it up. A minute into the song, when someone yells over the stampeding instrumentation, “Hey, let me in,” I whooped and had to fight the urge to throw my laptop out the window. It’s that infectiously raucous. Everything’s in on this: piano, sax, horns, and, of course, that colossally noisy guitar. It’s all working to drive you manically into the streets. “Gotta go / Where you wanna go / Hey / Heeeeyyyyy.” By the song’s end, I was mad at myself for not being involved in a bar brawl at that very moment. Or at least out drunkenly howling at the moon. It’s pure, feverish bliss.
But what comes after that riot fuel? The perfectly titled and delivered “Settle Me Down.” These guys know exactly what they’re doing. This song veers us straight into wistful romanticism. “You’ve got to settle me down, my love / ‘Cause I’m afraid we may cross that line.” The one-eighty between these two songs is confounding. And amazing. It’s got to be one of the most innately self-assured things I’ve ever heard. The instrumental jam that ends “Settle Me Down” is just breezy pop goodness. But how did all these beer soaked barbarians get here?
That transition alone is worth the many listens I’ll be giving Tomorrow’s Hits in the coming weeks. The fact that The Men are so good means that they won’t ever be playing the dive down the street. But, rest assured, that would be one perfect storm of a night.