The Men ‘Open Your Heart’ – Review

30 Apr
Just as the likes of NME and Radio 1 are panicking about guitar music being on life support, the blogosphere seems to be re-evealuating the genre of late. Perhaps they’ve realised that Rock music has had a pretty rough ride over the past decade. Afterall, The Rapture made disco cool, Abba and The Carpenters are credible for the first time in their careers, whilst even r&b is having an unexpected revival. Surely rock music can also have its day in the sun? Maybe it’s just that the cool kids like to be contrary but at last there seems to be a change in the tide. A few things have influenced this, namely some influential reviews and articles at places like Beats Per Minute, The New York Times, and Pitchfork, but it also helps that in the last few months some too good to be deniable, capital R, Rock albums have been released, including records by Cloud Nothings, Yuck, Milk Music and The Men.
The Mens’ breakthrough album was ‘Leave Home’, and their music was as obviously pinched as the album’s title. But it really was a fantastic LP; grungy, noisy, seedy, distorted, confused, messy and intense. Most of all, it was a lot of fun. Like every good band should they’ve capitalised on that record’s success by putting out a follow-up really quickly – in under 8 months to be precise. ‘Open Your Heart’ is in many respects a better record, as it flows from song to song and sound to sound with more focus and direction.  It means that the appropriately titled ‘Country Song’ moves seamlessly into the other-worldly weirdness of ‘Oscillation’ which likewise morphs fittingly into the melodic ‘Please Don’t Go Away’. This is in contrast to the chaos of ‘Leave Home’, where songs were positioned in a seemingly random and unsettling order.
The other great shift in gear comes with The Mens’ move towards a more polished, melodic sound. The title track is one of the most enjoyable guitar songs you’ll hear all year, whilst ‘Turn It Around’ goes so far as to musically reference Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, and dare I say, Bon Jovi. Meanwhile ‘Country Song’ is not the only track on the album that could use that title; ‘Candy’ is also a divine bit of straight up country-pop.
They still do nasty of course, but they now do it a lot less convincingly than they did 12 months ago. ‘Cube’ and ‘Oscillation’ are loud, untamed and honestly far too long for their own good. ‘Animal’ better captures that punk spirit of the first two records, but it still can’t hold a candle to the more considered moments on the record. Lyrically they have a lot to still work on – sure, they’ve improved since the days when they would spit out one lyric over and over (‘If you leave…then I would die’) and bury their words under miles of distortion, but on ‘Turn It Around’ they’ve created something that resembles a good lyrical hook (‘I wanna see you go dooooowwwwn’) and ‘Please Don’t Go Away’ and ‘Candy’ manage to convey real emotion with simple, unfunny language.
‘Open Your Heart’ is The Men’s best album yet, even if it doesn’t captivate and excite in the way that their first two records did. Here they demonstrate that not only could they lead a new wave of heavy rock bands to critical acclaim but they’re also perfectly capable of making stellar pop music as well. Not that we’d particularly want them to fully convert when their own brand of eccentric, genre crushing music is so potent right now.

7/10

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