The Men - Devil Music
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After several acclaimed albums for Sacred Bones, Brooklyn post-punk group the Men return to self-releasing their music with their 2016 full-length, Devil Music. The album also marks their return to making noisy, aggressive punk rock rather than the mellower, more rootsy rock of their previous two albums and EP Campfire Songs, which delved into country and heartland rock influences. By and large, the ten tracks on Devil Music are fast, loud, and heavy, and they were all bashed out in the group's practice space over a single weekend. The album is definitely a return to darker, more volatile sounds rather than the optimism and accessibility of their prior releases. A skronky no wave saxophone appears on several tracks, and it's a far cry from the clean, peppy bar band horns on the group's previous album, Tomorrow's Hits. The vocals seem strained and fragile from years of screaming; at some points, they're verging on falsetto. Not all of the album is highly intense -- there are slower, more desperate-sounding songs, and there's also a John Fahey-esque acoustic guitar interlude. Plenty of the songs are closer to hypnotic psych-rock rather than punk, and there are even some bluesy moments, but it's still aggressive, distorted, and powerful. The guitars are thick, abrasive, and smothering, and the frantic vocals are lost in echo. Much more so than the majority of their other albums, the Men sound like they're going with their instincts here, rather than carefully composing songs. It's an exhilarating rush, and even for a band that had never made the same record twice, it comes as a bit of a shock after the Men had been inching toward sounding like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty.