The Men – Open Your Heart

Rating: ★★★★½

2012 has been a really good year for rock n’ roll so far, and The Men aim to keep that spirit up! Their third LP, Open Your Heart (out now on Sacred Bones Records) is filled with pummeling rock that begs to be classified.  Is it punk? Hardcore? Maybe post-punk? Truth is, there’s no way you can really label everything they’ve done here, crafting an album that fits into all the above categories, yet never stays in one place for too long.

“Turn It Around” opens up the record in furious fashion, if you just wait ten seconds.  From there, the sound kicking out of your stereo will surely have you pumping your fists in the air.  Perhaps what’s the most interesting is that the group fills their songs with elements of classic rock, they just play it faster than everyone else around.  The Men will keep this spirit up with “Animal,” a song that has a bit more of a growl to it.  You can see remnants of New York Dolls (it can’t just be me), only with a heavier element–though it’s often balanced with a female backing vocal track.  From the get-go, you’re getting kicked in the mouth, and you’ll happily offer up a toothless smile while you rock along.

But, what makes Open Your Heart worthy of repeated listens revolves around the band’s ability to sort of play with more than one formula, while still maintaing their own identity.  For just a moment, albeit a long one, you get “Country Song” and “Oscillation,” two sprawling instrumental tracks that span over 12 minutes in length (when combined). It’s no wonder that their bio mentions allusions to Thurston Moore, although they don’t seem as discordant in their style.  It’s a nice moment for you to pause and reflect.  Yep, this album still rules.

And then we’re off again, with the soaring gang vocal moment you’ll find on “Please Don’t Go Away.”  Stylistically, you can see some resemblance to noisier indie bands like Dirty on Purpose, with The Men not afraid to add elements of melody all the while pounding away.  Throwing this track in the middle of the album provides that perfect conundrum, yet again illustrating a group who’re willing to throw all their influences into their songwriting. “Candy” is yet another such track; it’s almost a country ballad.  Even if it seems unexpected, it’s tied into the album perfectly, using a seemingly lo-fi recording to hold true to the band’s form. For the rest of the album, and really for its entirety, the band go back and forth between sounds, finishing with “Ex-Dreams,” a tune that’s unified by all the band’s possible nostalgic nods.

Open Your Heart might just be a record that we’ll look back on years from now, grateful that someone wrote it.  At times it’s intense, yet still has points where you can sit back and absorb the goings-on rather than have them browbeat you.  The Men have concocted their own formula for writing a record, and it might just be a lasting formula more bands look to in the future. You can be fast and loud, but you can throw that slow jam in there just for kicks–if you execute it like this, we’re all going to love it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/06-Open-Your-Heart-1.mp3]

Download:The Men – Open Your Heart [MP3]

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