Friday, March 9, 2012

New Music Review: The Men-Open Your Heart

The Men-Open Your Heart
Sacred Bones
Grade: 9.75 (A)

It's really tough to bottle up the excitement I felt when I listened to the latest from The Men several times over the last few days. It's just an album you want to tell everyone about. Do you like unbridled energy with punchy guitar hooks? Do you like instrumentals where the music speaks for itself? Do you like the occasional country rock song about how a band knows it will never hear itself on the radio? Do you like 80's mainstays like Husker Du, The Replacements or Fugazi...I mean like remembering the first time you heard stuff from those guys? Then I tell you this..."Open Your Heart" will not let you down.

Beginning with the churning guitars that sound like a sped up Doobie Brothers' "China Grove", "Turn It Around" is straight out out of the rock'n roll book. The freewheeling vibe of "Turn It Around" is worth the price of admission.They turn on themselves on the fury of "Animal" next with scream along lyrics held together by lighter backing vocals repeating "I am an animal." It's totally inaccessible...but totally so much fun and memorable. From there they give perfect reverb, country like guitars on the aptly titled "Country Song". It has enough space to get lost in after the suffocation of "Animal". Once the slide guitars come in, you're hooked on the vibe. The good feelings of "Country Song" spill into the seven minute plus "Oscillation" which goes on as a feel good instrumental until turning into a menacing bone crusher. "Please Don't Go Away" repeats the same line over and over and does the job of feeling like a lost Husker Du cut while fitting in nicely with contemporaries such as No Age to finish off the first side.

The second half begins with the title track which has the same amount of hooks and energy as the opener "Turn It Around". Cymbals crash, guitars whiz by, but The Men don't forget to put in a great hook in the verse. The blitzkrieg pace is slowed down by the country rock of "Candy". If Alex Chilton was still alive, he'd probably applaud how wonderfully it sounds like an old Big Star classic. "When I hear the radio play, I don't care if it's not me" is the line that digs deepest in the chorus. Like a Big Star song, it knows it's too good for your FM radio station. Next up is the nihilistic guitars of "Cube" followed by another seven minute plus mood setter with "Presence"which drones along on a complete stoner riff. And the band finds the best way to end an album full of so many turns and enthusiasm with "Ex-Dreams". It almost plays like the encore to the best concert you've ever been too, and you want to give the loudest applause to show your appreciation at the end of.
To explain the different variations are exhausting, but well worth recommending. I still feel there is much to explore on "Open Your Heart". Lyrically, there really isn't much to it. It's been awhile where I could just put something on that gets me revved up with excitement. I think the genius to why it works so well is it throws so many influences into ten songs that, while it's nothing new in the elements it uses, it all comes off with a conviction that flies by you. It's the spirit of rock'n roll without any boundaries. And it's got me feeling good that that type of rock 'n roll feeling hasn't died. Saviors of rock 'n roll (like "Nevermind" or "It This It?")? The jury is out. A backlash has begun that it is and it is not. But who cares? In the meantime, give "Open Your Heart" a listen and do what it intends. Have a blast with it!

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