March 8, 2012

Album Review: The Men's Open Your Heart

In the spring of 2010, The New York Post published a feature that ceremoniously declared the return of artsy hardcore in the Bushwick section of NYC, ostentatiously dubbing it "mosh pit city" in the process. Often the case whenever the masses "discover" a trend, the label sounded kind of a silly statement to make -- Not because the music wasn't good, but because at that point, no other tastemaker site had bothered to point it out. If there's anything we've learned in the past year however is that many of today's venerable music sources are now playing catch up with this scene and that the NYPost's uncovering of bands like Pregnant, NOMOS and Byrds of Paradise was well ahead of its time. The Men in particular, while not mentioned in the NYPost's exposé, have become a predominant pin-up band in this stylistic rebirth. As a former BUZZSound and breakthrough artist here on AS who put out the 8th best LP of 2011, their loud, undefinable punk rock aesthetic has conjured up memories of when the Sonic Youths and Swans of the Big Apple's grimy '80s art punk scene were torchbearing a similar movement. Now with more eyes on them than ever, The Men confidently deliver substantial reason to declare that "rock isn't dead" on their latest effort, Open Your Heart.

One of the many qualities that made last year's Leave Home a thrilling listen was hearing The Men shape-shift their guitar-heavy sound between lambasting hardcore riffs, pummeling post-punk and dizzying noise that usually played out in one of two ways: Loud and very loud. Open Your Heart follows a similar path, but opts to turn down the volume just a bit (and I assure you, it's just a bit.) In the process, the Brooklyn quartet adds a few more colors to experiment with on their punk-hued palette, resulting in a listen that is surprisingly pieced together despite the many left turns it takes along the way. Here, it becomes evident that The Men can execute the genre's long and storied history (channeling everything from the strung out sprawl of Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth in "Oscillation" and album closer "Ex-Dreams," SST's catalog in "Animal" and the heady gauze of My Bloody Valentine in "Please Don't Go Away") without sounding so deliberate about it. It's because Open Your Heart plays out loosely and in-the-moment with its production, making The Men sound more like a band of friends holding a jam session in their parents' garage rather than meticulously-plotting high brow Brooklyn rockers tweaking their style for the sake of fashion. Most gratifying is that from this seemingly carefree attitude comes some of Open Your Heart's most unexpectedly basic yet incredible moments (Opener "Turn It Around," the album's title track and -- taking a cue from Nirvana unplugged -- the country-sided "Candy.")

The allure of The Men alongside their fellow Brooklyn scene noisemakers, as the aloof aforementioned New York Post feature pointed out years ago, is really that they're a crop of up-and-comers whose only interest is in rocking hard and heavy with no regard to the rule of trend -- something all of us need to get away from every now and then. Open Your Heart provides that escape into unpredictable punk tenements, but it's undoubtedly concise and ferocious where it needs to be. Where The Men go from here, who the fuck knows, but it sure sounds like they've got all their bases covered with little to no effort on their end.

The Men's Open Your Heart is available now on Sacred Bones Records.

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