The Men – Open Your Heart

written by: March 9, 2012
Release Date: March 6th, 2012


The amorphous “they” say that it’s all about pacing yourself. Start too quickly, burn too bright and fall off too soon. Laze out of the gate, get left behind and never catch up. The search, then, is for that perfect medium, the point where bursting off the starting line still looks awesome, yet hasn’t sapped all your energy.

One would be remiss in thinking that Brooklyn, N.Y., garage-rock group The Men’s sophomore album, Open Your Heart, rages a bit too quickly at the outset. Sure, “Turn It Around” and “Animal” represent some of the most jaw-droppingly visceral and punchy rock ‘n’ roll released in the past few years, but Open Your Heart doesn’t remotely allow for an exhausted feeling throughout its blistering 45-minute run time. Using a breadth of rock literacy as a foundation, The Men gestate and fly through tempo, mood and production value to create an unrelenting joy of a record.

But perhaps it was best that The Men opened what will undoubtedly be their breakout record with such ribald intensity, as the next two tracks are all confidence and trust in the payoff. “Country Song” is a study in layering, a steady pile-up from one wobbly, minor-key riff to a track awash in undulating guitar noise, completely wordless the whole time. “Oscillating” stays mostly silent itself, building an out of control freight train of a track into Nick Chiericozzi moaning, “Please take the stand/I have a couple of things I’d like to ask.” Most of the first half of Open Your Heart feels unencumbered by the need for rock ‘n’ roll to have vocal narrative, instead letting impressive and singing in their own way guitars cry out for them.

For the pop-rock enthusiast in The Men’s audience, the group turns the volume right back up with the cooing-while-raging “Please Don’t Go Away,” and the closest thing to a single the band could muster up, the title track. Both of these more pop-oriented turns speak to The Men’s intelligence in dealing with rock as a whole. They could be messy garage advocates (largely evidenced by their debut, Leave Home), but instead, The Men come off as students of how to load the breadth of rock history into their magazine.

Nowhere is this academia more evident than the country-fried Allman Brothers romp “Candy,” the most narratively driven tune on the record. It’s fitting that it’s about quitting a job and relaxing. While “Candy” won’t make anyone pine for a jammier third album from the group, the song acts almost as a middle finger to the idea that garage rock, or punk, has to be stupid. It can bloody well sound stupid or thrown together, but close inspection reveals near pitch-perfect song craft.

The record lags a bit toward its conclusion, with “Cube” trending a bit too messy for the album’s mission statement. “Presence” lingers for a bit too long in its 13th Floor Elevators in Seattle vibe, even if the caterwauling vocals from Chiercozzi and Mark Pezzo prove that The Men are vastly well-served still including vocals in their mix. Thankfully, “Ex-Dreams” is a callback to what The Men have done best through their short but illustrious history: a song combining a murderer’s row of seminal 1980s hardcore bands, ranging from Hüsker Dü to Sonic Youth. It’s a two-sided jackhammer of a song, and it closes the album on the only note that it knows, a high one. In the span of four short years, The Men have gone from messy punk revivalists, reveling in the mystique of their own guitar prowess, to a formidable band, poised to make their takeover of the rock world. Open Your Heart is a startlingly propulsive statement to their close-at-hand greatness.

The Men – Open Your Heart tracklist:

  1. “Turn It Around”
  2. “Animal”
  3. “Country Song”
  4. “Oscillation”
  5. “Please Don’t Go Away”
  6. “Open Your Heart”
  7. “Candy”
  8. “Cube”
  9. “Presence”
  10. “Ex-Dreams”