One look at the cover art for The Men’s ninth studio album, New York City, and you can almost hear what you’re in for before you put the record on. The band’s name on the dirty kick drum is the only indication of who the hell these guys are, and although both the band’s moniker and the font it’s printed in are generic, the gnarly, road-worn equipment in the photo along with the obvious spatial recording constraints indicate you’re about to experience ten scuzzy numbers that will have no choice but to impress the pants off the most cynical punk rock fan.
“I never was into it, I gotta be just who I am,” Nick Chiericozzi shout-sings during the opening song’s pre-chorus, his overmodulated snarl making you imagine a mic soaked with saliva, and we’re only one minute into the album. The piano during “Hard Livin’” is played as punishingly as the drums, and the track’s seemingly improvised solo will have you pitying the poor person who has to tune the instrument. “Hard Livin’” rolls directly into the down and dirty “Peace of Mind”. The band’s lyrics are never clever or interesting, relying instead on common cliches, but what The Men lack in linguistic diversity, they more than make up for in raw energy.
Just before the record’s halfway point, New York City’s best song, “God Bless the USA”, arrives, bringing with it an instantly catchy verse and a singalong chorus literally anyone can shout along to without feeling they’re being outdone by Chiericozzi’s wonderfully cracked cry of, “U.S.Aaaaaaaaayyyyyy!” “Eye” recalls Fugazi’s “Glue Man” as it may have sounded if The Stooges covered it in a blues rock style while “Eternal Recurrence” sounds like The Who’s “Who Are You” if it had been half as long and given a garage rock makeover production-wise. Chiericozzi is at his sleaziest vocally during the chugging “Round the Corner”. Instrumentally, The Men are at their most dynamic here. The emotive solo just after the song’s three-minute mark is fitting, and when the guitar breaks into a Sabbath-esque call and response with the drums, it tacks an aptly dark, devilish tail on the entire moment.
“Anyway I Found You” is New York City’s most straightforward song. The guitar work here is simple and beautifully appropriate. You can imagine the track blasting from a jukebox in a sordid dive bar or a shady pool hall. “River Flows” is New York City’s ender, and it feels like a sister song to “Anyway I Found You”. The song also finds Chiericozzi at his most mellow vocally as he attempts to smoothly sustain notes. The subtle shakiness in his voice, however, betrays his best efforts, and it’s as if just under the surface he’s dying to explode and attack the song, growling and snarling all over it like an animal. “River Flows’” ending has the instruments fading until only a lone antiquated pump organ can be heard repeating the song’s chords before it too fades away. Overall, New York City is a solid album that doesn’t overstay its welcome and delivers exactly what its packaging promises.