Very funny, guys, calling your fourth album Tomorrow’s Hits, when there’s nothing remotely commercial — or forward-looking — about such a sweltering orgy of noise. More to the point, the title evokes Phil Spector’s slogan “Tomorrow’s Sound Today,” and this rowdy Brooklyn quintet has indeed crafted its own perverse, and curiously enticing, version of the crackpot producer’s trademark Wall of Sound. While appealing melodies and inventive lyrics figure in the mix, the real payoff here lies in the masterful way the band blends brutality and finesse, and leaves you primed for more.
Change is the constant. On 2011’s Leave Home (shades of the Ramones?), they were brawny and harsh; by 2013’s Catskills-birthed New Moon (shades of Elliott Smith?), they’d developed a country-fried crunch, suggesting a hard-boiled update of the Band. The ensuing Campfire Songs was more than a gap-filler, proving they hadn’t gotten soft in acoustic performances as bracingly scruffy as the scuzziest punk rock. But Tomorrow’s Hits finds the Men recording in the city again, compressing all their phases into an eight-song, 37-minute outburst guaranteed to waste the hardiest listener, in the best possible way.
It takes a toll on the band, too: Singer-guitarists Nick Chiericozzi and Mark Perro have the exhausted rasps you get from pulling an all-nighter, and not getting the chance to recharge. Their strangled urgency adds blunt force to the sporadically comprehensible lyrics, which often sink into the dense murk of bandmate Ben Greenberg’s pummeling production: The toe-tapping jangle-fest “Dark Waltz” (not a waltz, actually) features a badass drummer who “sold weed” and “carried a gun,” in addition to being “a real mean son of a bitch,” before giving way to a brilliant, pinballing guitar solo. “Another Night” underscores the band’s inclusive elasticity, deploying soul-inclined sax and trumpet for a thumping rave-up, wherein a desperate lover gasps, “It’s so long since we got it right / We gotta just keep on trying.” Then the song gets progressively more frantic, to thrilling effect.
The crazier, the better! Though there aren’t any clunkers, Tomorrow’s Hits peaks when it achieves maximum speed and strives for the ecstatic repetition of eye-rolling, body-transcending gospel music, namely the blurry “Different Days,” a rural variant on early Velvet Underground, and the furious six-minute boogie “Pearly Gates,” alluding to desperate, even violent behavior. Yet there’s also lovely folk-rock (“Get What You Give”) and a charming down-home shuffle (“Sleepless”) that could be a New Moon outtake. Given the stylistic zig-zagging, the Men can’t claim a master plan, apart from keeping themselves entertained, which should suffice. For them, and for us.