The Men - Live At The Garage, London

Showing no signs of slowing

Conforming to all but the most lazy of gender stereotypes, tonight The Men are loud, brash and sweaty. But that doesn't mean they don't wear their hearts on their collective, heavily-tattooed sleeves either.

The show opens with the reassuringly retro tones of the Hammond organ, highlighting The Men's recent move from frantic punk rock to a more temperate sound on their fourth album in as many years 'New Moon'.

Curiously, The Men seem to have taken the reverse journey most bands take nowadays, displaying more krautrock leanings and motoric rhythms on earlier tracks like 'Night Landing', recently turning to more traditional styles.

'Half Angel Half Light' encapsulates this mix of feedback-driven barroom country rock, laced with all the regret of someone who's stared into more than a few empty shot glasses: "I've been drinking for so long / I gave up on life, I gave up on song / I've been digging a hole in the ground / I've been digging till you are found."

The Men nevertheless maintain all their turbulent energy on these more contemplative, countrified songs, with the heavy riffs instead now taking a backseat to a blaring harmonica.

The riffs make a blistering return however on new tracks like 'Electric' and 'The Brass,' which all burn just as brightly as anything from their Black Sabbath-indebted earlier albums.

If piercingly loud guitars is the defining sound of the night, the piquant bouquet of BO is the defining smell; it frequently stings the nostrils as the swirling mass of bodies crashing into each other grows and grows.

At one point a woman offloads her bag onto her male gig companion- take that gender stereotypes!- to join the mayhem that ensues in the opening bars of 'Open Your Heart', the Buzzcocks-aping title track of The Men's third album.

Truly The Men have a knack for pilfering from the legions of great guitar bands that have gone before them with a tenacious and inventive enthusiasm. It's impossible to resist.

Guitarist Nick Chiericozzi's completely sweat-soddon tie-dye T-shirt reflects their penchant for psychedelia-infused solos, while Kevin Faulkner's faded New York Knicks garb nods to their college rock education. And bassist Ben Greenberg's Neil Young tour T-shirt shows the band have no qualms with making their influences both seen and heard.

No more so is this clear than on new tracks 'I Saw Her Face' and 'Bird Song', both of which form tent poles between the hailstorm of scrappy guitars and hyperactive drumming that sits inbetween.

An elongated Hammond organ intro to the former allows the brooding atmosphere to build, as The Men swig from a bottle of whiskey passed amongst them, before the song's crashing, Crazy Horse-style riff clamps down with full force. The track is the gig's apex, at one point breaking down to just vocals and drums - providing a rare moment of peace in The Men's sound. Of course, normal service soon resumes and the song speeds up dramatically to end in a cacophony of feedback and shrieking guitars. Clearly, despite releasing four albums in as many years, The Men show no signs of wanting to slow down for long.

 

Words by Nico Franks

Photos by Andrew Novell

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