The Men - Open Your Heart | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret

A rough record with impeccable songwriting.

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Author: on May 11, 2012

Following the release of the adrenaline-shot Immaculada, a debut of reverb-washed guitar riffs and elegantly disjointed noise rock, I heard The Men defined as “organic punk rock.” Then, the description seemed a bit of a pigeon-hole, unfair to a band who were really all over the place. Following their nearly-as-enthralling sophomore effort Leave Home (2011), and especially now their third LP Open Your Heart has dropped, the depiction starts to ring true. The Brooklyn band have a distinct ability to morph from aesthetic to aesthetic, seamlessly jumping from crunching drums to twangy riffs then to dreary tonal play – sometimes during the same song. “Organic,” then, is a somewhat fitting descriptor, as The Men constantly evolve on record and peak with this third effort. Open Your Heart stands not so much as a suggestion or demand, as much as an appeal; The Men are simply asking us to accept all they have to give.

Open Your Heart is not a pristine record; “rough” would be a more fitting term, speaking to the album’s production above its construction. The songwriting here is impeccable, showcasing The Men’s ability to compile supremely catchy tunes generally built upon a two-guitar race to the finish and driving percussion. Their use of reverse harmony and erratically impressive vocal schemes affords Open Your Heart an air of excitement; The Men always perform on record with a distinctly group effort and this record demonstrates their harmony in full form. “Turn It Around” and “Please Don’t Go Away” are riff-heavy (every song is riff heavy, okay) meeting grounds between My Bloody Valentine and The E Street Band. “Animal” is a raucous tirade of punk rock, matching growls with some airy female vocals. And the title track is an infectious monster where The Men implore us: “Open your heart to me!” On top, “Country Song” and “Oscillation” are gorgeously constructed rockers, the two being the highlights of the double-axe waltz The Men flow to so well. “Candy,” on the other hand, is a patient, country-fried celebratory lamentation on learning to cope with freedom; a ballad of sorts, on a record otherwise chock-full of vigorous guitar lines.

From the outset of Open Your Heart postures itself as a loud, raucous ride of a record, but it’s the innate solitude it possesses that grips you. Back-ender “Presence,” which owes a serious debt to likes of Ride and Galaxie 500, is a towering giant of cushiony distortion that builds from a few wayward notes. The song itself, still quite loud, very violent on its exterior, beneath though is this thick, sloppy rumble of bass and a pounding drum beat—these backbones are lush, cautious, while the guitars rip away. It is the easiest to spot on “Presence,” this undercurrent of serenity that adds girth to otherwise wiry punk rock, but it’s very present in all their music. It affords a sense of grandeur that turns energetic garage rock into stadium anthems. Not that The Men are taking a swing at the bright lights – their music just sounds like it could make the transition easily enough, closer “Ex-Dreams” being a perfect example: cymbal crashes, lightning riffs, plenty of guitar play, a dense bass line and great pacing the song is extremely infectious. It would be a waste to only open a handful of hearts with tunes like this, even if the record was written for just one.

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