Mercy is The Men’s eighth album. Mercy is their third consecutive album with same lineup. Sets it apart; not since New Moon have we seen the band create something so powerful.
A Look Back
Making music since 2010 when they released Immaculada, but they didn’t come into my sphere until about 2012 or 2013 with Open Your Heart and New Moon. Prior to New Moon, the band’s sound was much heavier and much louder. And while they occasionally dip back into those waters, they’ve calmed over the years.
New Moon was the most significant turning point, where the band shifted into creating something quite different. It was still loud, but with New Moon they mellowed out. There was a new depth to the band that hadn’t really been present on The Men’s earlier, much heavier albums.
What followed drew influence from across the board, pulling from seemingly random genres and bands. You heard it on Tomorrow’s Hits (2014), Devil Music (2016), and Drift (2018). And once again you get it with their 2020 album Mercy.
So let’s take a look at the packaging before digging into the album itself.
Mercy on Purple Swirl Vinyl
I love the Sacred Bones logo, that solid triangle circled by an ouroboros. The album art the label creates tends to have a consistency you see with labels like Sub Pop with their singles club; a consistency that connects album to label through use of elements within the layout, fonts, prominent logo placements, etc. and Mercy follows suit.
Take a look in my unboxing video below:
The vinyl itself is the purple swirl version, not to be confused with purple splatter, which came with a highly limited outer sleeve cover with a stamp and Sacred Bones sleeve. That’s another signature with Sacred Bones — the highly limited, online store only version with the additional outer sleeve and stamp. I have a few of them in my collection, but this version of Mercy is not one.
Digging into Mercy
Pitchfork pinpointed precisely how I feel about The Men in their review of Mercy, highlighting the band’s chaotic nature and how it propels them:
With each grab-bag of a record, it’s become clearer that the Men’s attraction to aesthetic chaos is motivated by a desire for inner peace, a musical analog to the process of cutting through the noise of modern life.Pitchfork’s Review of Mercy by The Men
“Cool Water” opens Mercy on a high point with a country folk twang with a mellow emotive melody and a slide guitar. The Men layer in harmonies in the chorus where they repeat “Cool water, cool water, cool water wash over me.” It’s different from what we’ve heard from the band before, and it’s welcome.
It’s hard to pinpoint, but as I dig into this album more and more, it just sounds tighter. Tighter musicianship. More well rounded songs. On-point production. And I keep thinking: this is how an eighth album is SUPPOSED to sound! The consistent lineup is paying off.
The water theme continues in the second song, “Wading in Dirty Water”. Where the opener had a central bass line that carried the melody, “Wading in Dirty Water” has a central guitar riff. The Men also take it up a notch; there’s an underlying angst to the song that carries it very well from beginning to end. Take a listen:
Ooof. Those lyrics, that guitar solo; they give me chills. There’s a reason “Wading in Dirty Water” is my favorite song on Mercy. Do you hear it?
On the cover is a hype sticker I referenced in my unboxing video:
NYC’s The Men return with their 8th album of eclectic, thrilling rock music. RIYL: Big Star, Tom Petty, The Replacements, Suicide.
What an odd combination of artists, I thought while first reading that. I’ve never pulled the likes of these from The Men’s music before, but as diverse as these artists are, they’re there. You hear the synth heavy “Children All Over the World” backed by jangly country swagger of “Call the Dr.” which is followed by a return to a heavier, louder driving rock sound on “Breeze” — these sounds shouldn’t work together on a single album let alone back to back, yet they do!
But here’s the catch…
Sadly, I think Mercy has passed a lot of people by. The Men have been around a while now, and despite how good I think this album is, it’s quite the departure. It’s short with just seven songs, many of which are quite a bit quieter and more subtle than we’ve heard from the band. And that’s the travesty, because Mercy is pretty much the best thing they’ve created yet.