Home / Concert Reviews / The Men w/ Absolutely and Midnight Reruns @ Cactus Club
Monday, April 14, 2014

The Men w/ Absolutely and Midnight Reruns @ Cactus Club

April 13, 2014

the men
The Men
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The Men’s approach to music favors growth and movement, reflecting an aversion to the stagnation that could so easily trouble a lesser band. The band’s early releases offer a post-punk squall, noisy and, at times, vicious. But The Men weren’t content to linger in a single genre, growing instead to incorporate catchy guitar leads and ’70s-tinged song craft to create an energetic fusion of old and new.

It’s been said that Neil Young is the real forefather of grunge, and, as grunge gave way to indie rock, it feels as though The Men fit somewhere into that 1970s-to-1990s lineage—as though they’re Neil’s grunge prophecy filtered through an eager, experimental sensibility that plays with post-punk and country influences in equal measure. This is particularly evident on their most recent release, 2014’s Tomorrow’s Hits, and was just as clear during their show Sunday at the Cactus Club.

Local bands Absolutely and Midnight Reruns kicked off the night with an intensity and energy that did Milwaukee proud. Absolutely started the show with their take on math rock, favoring flashy rhythmic work and songwriting that displayed a flair for the dramatic. Midnight Reruns speak to that uniquely Westerbergian ideal of mesmerizing, messy and heartfelt songwriting, and they brought a sense of exuberance and pop sensibility to an evening that could have easily drowned in heavy jams.

Channeling more than a little Crazy Horse, The Men charged through their songs with an unassailable energy, setting an insistent pace for the first half of their set before mellowing into a sludgier, sweeter sound. Where their recordings play with space and softness, their live show is all power, a heady and insistent charge that rattled and burned as the night went on. This ferocious quality lent an urgency to their songs, most noticeable on the stellar “Different Days,” which sounds, at times, like a Modern Lovers outtake, and “Pearly Gates,” a forceful jam from the second half of Tomorrow’s Hits.

It was sometimes hard to tell where one song ended and another began, but The Men are too smart to let it get dull. There was a spirited efficiency to their live set. While their records seem to be worlds unto themselves, The Men used their live show to display a more potent version of what they do in the studio. Stripped of the saxophones, pedal steel and interludes that give their albums texture, The Men filled the void with precision and power, surging forward with relentless rhythms and hypnotic, sludgy solos. Their live show proved that The Men are masters of their material, making that most satisfying kind of music—the kind that can’t be pigeonholed. Let’s hope they keep it up.