Not a lot of bands have had a constant evolution as much as the Men. From the noise-punk beginnings of their early albums to honing in their country-rock sound in more recent offerings. Mercy is an album that shifts even further, with each track having its own distinct signature. A huge variety of styles are explored in this album, from elaborate blues jams to psych-folk tunes and an 80’s synth-rock song thrown in there for good measure. They’ve been around for over a decade, and still they find more ways of challenging themselves, leaving listeners in a constant state of anticipation.
It starts with the heavenly keys and the refreshing cadence of “Cool Water”. A poetic hymn reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, with its idyllic lyrics and celestial arrangement. A shower of cool breeze sweeps over us in the outro, with a steel guitar pining in the background and a chorus of voices singing “Cool water, wash over me.”
We then embark in a ten minute psych-rock Odyssey with “Wading in Dirty Water.” The guitars get muddier as we go shuffling through a swampy undergrowth of overdrive. Nick Chiericozzi sings about not being dragged down as he proclaims “I could not give you my heart / I’m not messing around”.
Everything gets stripped down in the next track, and it tells us that there’s no guessing as to what comes next. “Fallin’ Thru” might sound like a B-track from a lost Tom Waits cassette. We get back to the bare essentials, the piano and vocals are interlaced with lots of quiet space and erratic timing, owing to the vulnerability that’s expressed in the song. The gears shift again, “Children All Over the World” is wrapped in an 80’s aesthetic. It could pass as a great track for an Action Hero’s training montage, complete with a blaring guitar solo that channels Van Halen.
“Call the Dr.” replaces the Delorean for a horse. This cowboy rock tune narrates the fate of an outlaw after a robbery gone wrong. His co-conspirators took his share of the money and left him for dead with the authorities. This would have been my favorite, if there was a honky tonk version of it.
The next track brings the Men back to their earlier style. “Breeze” is more like a hurricane. The fuzztone is dialed to eleven and a throat-searing vocal move at breakneck speed. The titular closer takes us back down with an aching ballad about a man’s final moments as Chiericozzi laments “Well, I’m just like all the rest / I need Mercy at the hour of my death.”
The Men have yet again expanded their range with this new album, and seeing their steady rate of releases for the past decade of their illustrious career, fans will surely enjoy what these masters of the craft will come up with next.
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