The notion that four Chapel Hill youngsters would play under the moniker Last Year’s Men is odd to say the least. The name refers to “Last Year’s Man,” one of the seminal numbers of ‘60s songwriting icon Leonard Cohen, and it’s a safe bet that gravelly-voiced poets don’t turn up on many high school iPods these days. There’s also the implied indication that they were full-fledged men last year. By many people’s standards they’ll barely be men two years from now.
But beguiling as their name is on the surface, it makes perfect sense when you listen to the music. Combining the buoyant melodies of ‘50s and ‘60s pop and rock with a youthful pop-punk sneer, the trio is ruled by influences that don’t get the attention they deserve in 2010. Far from being a problem, this is what makes Last Year’s Men stand out. They shake and shimmy through the kind of retro rock usually pumped out by jaded old curmudgeons, attacking break-ups and shake-ups with the kind of youthful intensity that can fight through any failure.
Coming together from the ashes of early shots at pop-punk, the group came together as Last Year’s Men in October. But despite its relative newness, the band has grown swiftly thanks to the ambition of singer/songwriter Ben Carr. The kind of music nerd that has to know every b-side and bootleg by the artists he’s into, Carr saw a link between the punk anthems of his school days and classic cuts from the ‘50s and ‘60s.