The Men: Now there’s a band that knows how to self-mythologize. You might associate the punk four-piece with the Brooklyn music scene of the early 2010s, a world of 285 Kent gigs, Northside showcases, and the BrooklynVegan comments section. But they were always slotting themselves into an earlier classic-rock lineage—recording straight to tape; pushing out five albums in four years; naming their 2011 breakout album after a Ramones classic; going full Crazy Horse on their fourth and arguably best album, 2013’s New Moon. That album’s recording process (in a cabin in the Catskills, naturally) was immortalized by singer-guitarist Nick Chiericozzi in a liner-notes essay, the kind of grandiose reminiscence you’d expect to accompany a 30th-anniversary reissue. These guys knew they were onto something.
The Men’s uber-prolific imperial phase came to a close with 2014’s Tomorrow’s Hits, but they’ve soldiered along since then, releasing a solid album every two years or so. These have vacillated between roaring throwbacks to the band’s shit-kicking punk roots (2016’s Devil Music) and rangier, mellower efforts that serve as eclectic samplers of their rustic influences (2018’s Drift, 2020’s Mercy). Within the opening seconds of the skittering, straight-ahead “Hard Livin’,” as Chiericozzi declares, “Hard times are over/Just because!” in a phlegm-caked growl, it’s clear that New York City leans towards the former category.
The album’s backstory and title (come on—who besides Lou Reed and X has the nerve to name an album after their home city?) reflect the group’s knack for shamelessly blowing its own horn. As the story goes, founding members Chiericozzi and Mark Perro laid down an early iteration of New York City with a drum machine in 2020. Unhappy with the result, they went into a Brooklyn studio with bandmates Rich Samis (drums) and Kevin Faulkner (bass) and rerecorded live to 2″ tape, favoring impromptu energy over multitrack perfectionism.
To wit, New York City is the scuzziest the Men have sounded in years, an unpretentious garage-punk racket that wears its analog heart on its flannel-clad sleeves. On tunes like the hard-charging “Echo,” the guitars are in the red, the vocals are in the red, and even the drums thwack and wobble like a Times New Viking deep cut. The closest thing to a ballad is the minor-key dirge “Anyway I Find You,” which would have felt right at home on New Moon. Elsewhere, it’s a gaudy rock’n’roll album filled with gaudy rock’n’roll gestures, from the pair of throat-busting screams that open “Eye” to the wailing guitar solo in “Through the Night” that pans back and forth between stereo channels with all the subtlety of a Spinal Tap goof.
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