If every album in a band’s catalogue is a chapter in their story, The Men have one confounding manuscript. Paradoxically the most and least straightforward band working today, their albums tend to be indebted to genre forebearers, but the genre varies, with them dabbling in harsher sounds on early records, then cleaning (and expanding their palette) on career highpoint, Open Your Heart. They seemed to be veering away entirely from abrasion until 2016’s Devil Music, a perfectly competent but monotonous work that could have gotten lost in the shuffle with any number of passable punk releases you could find scouring through Bandcamp.

At this point, a Men album is whatever the fuck they want it to be. Their seventh album, Drift, is aptly-titled, floating freely through sounds and themes for a half hour and then bidding adieu. Furthering their reputation for genre/sound-hopping, only one song here could realistically fit in on Devil Music, and it’s the weakest one: the meatheaded rager ‘Killed Someone.’

There is something of a through-line in the first half. Alienation and isolation run abound. Opener ‘Maybe I’m Crazy’ sounds like Jack White doing ‘Frankie Teardrop,’ while the synth and horn-driven ‘Secret Light’ revolves around the mantra “I’ll bring your secrets to light.” ‘So High’ sums things up concisely with atmospheric clichés like “I wanna fly through the sky so high” and some ‘Downbound Train’-esque harmonica for good measure.

‘Esque’ is a suffix The Men can’t escape (not that it precludes them from writing compelling songs). Much of Drift sounds like canonized artists from decades past. Two tracks are reminiscent of different shades of Leonard Cohen, with the honeyed ‘Rose on Top of the World’ sounding like an ode to ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and closer ‘Come to Me’ like an ethereal outtake from Songs of Leonard Cohen. Fans of underground country legend Blaze Foley might appreciate ‘Sleep,’ which sounds like him playing backup to a congregation of monks. Most interestingly, the slow-burning ‘Final Prayer’ isn’t too unlike Mogwai’s ‘You’re Lionel Richie’ in terms of instrumentation.

Enjoyable as Drift often is, The Men are honouring their influences but not going the extra mile some of their contemporaries do to make these songs stunners. Angel Olsen basically wrote a Leonard Cohen song with ‘White Fire,’ but it had extra-dimensionality that made it a transfixing experience. The War on Drugs have shot to indie rock stardom on the back of raiding your dad’s record collection, but a song like ‘When I Held You In My Arms,’ while well-crafted, feels like an impression of an impression. The Men have what it takes to be transcendent, even when they’re openly cribbing from predecessors (to wit, listen to their best song, ‘Open Your Heart’ and Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ back-to-back). Drift is like a Reader’s Digest you find in a waiting room: fun to leaf through and containing a few exciting passages, but too scattered to stick with you in even the short-term.