It’s always been hard to pin The Men down. 2008 debut ‘Immaculada’ had them embroiled in furious battles of noise, while 2012’s ‘Open Your Heart’ offered up brighter punk riffs, ’90s alt.rock jams, and warped country licks. A year later, they stripped things back for the acoustic ‘Campfire Songs’ EP.
As ‘Drift’ confirms, seven albums and ten years in, that spirit of unpredictability is still very much in tact. Opener ‘Maybe I’m Crazy’ suggests this will be another collection of bristling noise, but we should know by now it’s never safe to make assumptions with the Brooklyn punks. Instead, its nine tracks embark on an odyssey that’s as satisfyingly odd as it is erratic.
So while ‘Maybe I’m Crazy’ might kick things off in a nerve-zapping fit of synths, hissed whispers, and barks, there’s only one other song on the record with its eyes on making as much racket. ‘Killed Someone’ is a fairly straightforward punk song - distorted, spat vocals and thrashed-out power chords - that acts as a short, sharp shock between ‘Drift”s more merciful cuts, but feels mildly out of place. On one side of it sits ‘So High’, which - via maudlin violin and pedal steel - evokes a deserted night in the American west, its protagonist longingly stargazing, softly drawling: “I wanna fly through the sky so high / And I have never been so high as I been tonight.” On the other is ‘Sleep’ - largely instrumental save for the occasional chasmic yawn.
Wilfully experimental and typically fluid, ‘Drift’ is an album that will keep you on your toes. Its constant shifting might make it harder to be bowled over by it straight away, but then who said the good things in life should always come so easily?