The Men - New Moon

Listen to this and you’ll feel a fraction of the awe Neil Armstrong must have felt when he put up his thumb and blotted out that tiny pea, pretty and blue.

Label: Sacred Bones

Rating: 8

The moon – as you’ll no doubt have noticed, if you happen to live near a section of sky – always hangs above us, unnoticed but vital. It tugs at the sleeves of our oceans, it sets our calendars, and it captures our imagination. The moon is the only unearthly place that a human has ever set foot. It represents exploration and the unknown. Gliding across the sky like clockwork, waxing and waning, there is something magically celestial about it, even if we can explain away its glow with basic science.

The Men’s third album is titled ‘New Moon’ and fittingly so; when you listen to it, you feel a fraction of the awe Neil Armstrong must have felt when he put up his thumb and blotted out that tiny pea, pretty and blue. Not once does this album clatter back to earth with a dull, mundane thud like a spent vessel. Constantly modulating, ‘New Moon’ tears through wrenching, propulsive head-spins, and, just as you’re dazed from it all, a snippet of studio chatter peeps through, or an ever-so-subtle change in dynamic captures your full attention. On opening track ‘Open The Door’, the sheer simplicity of a finger nudging its neighbouring key becomes a super-magnified charm, and as whimsical guitars occasionally join in, clunking along happily a couple of steps behind, the whole effect is quietly stunning.

An intentionally cursory glance at writing surrounding The Men unearths a common, but not-terribly-accurate descriptor; punk. Far from sticking to Buzzcocks, it’s easier to imagine The Men as wayward explorers, drifting between influences and genres however they please. Few bands could get away with the breakneck pivots on ‘New Moon’ - jolting the listener around like a weary commuter on a dodgy Northern Line carriage. Somehow, though, we are transported from the wonderfully fuzz-riddled doo-wop of ‘The Seeds’ to the frentic mayhem of ‘The Brass’ – and it all seems so damn effortless.

‘High And Lonesome’ comes roughly in the middle of the album, and, if we think of this record as the moon drifting across the black night, then by lunar logic, this is invariably our full moon. There is a sort of loneliness about it, yet it also casts a hazy beautiful glow across the rest of the record. Earlier we said that ‘New Moon’ was fittingly titled – but on second thoughts, that isn’t entirely right. The Men have actually produced a lunar eclipse, with sunlight spilling around the edges in magical flares. In other words ‘New Moon’ is a rare and very special album.