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Open your heart

Album: Open Your Heart

Artist: The Men

Label: Sacred Bones

Release Date: March 6, 2012

4 / 5 Stars


I am not a rock ‘n’ roll aficionado. Sure, Exile on Main Street probably gets my vote for greatest album of all time, Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite artists, and some of my favorite albums are straight-up rock (Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor), but I have not delved very deep into the infinite back catalog of rock. I’ve got Tim and Let It Be on my computer, but I’ve never been that captivated by The Replacements. I’ve never been obsessed with Sonic Youth, Pavement, Guided By Voices, or any of the other seminal rock bands my friends always raved about.

This makes reviewing Open Your Heart, The Men’s latest release, problematic – it is a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll album, and touches on a wide variety of styles and sub-genres. My ignorance of a lot of The Men’s influences means I can’t review it the way it is mostly being reviewed – pointing out all of the influences, and how The Men change, expand upon, or simply emulate these influences. I can’t do this. I can’t even compare Open Your Heart to The Men’s 2011 album Leave Home, because I’ve never listened to it either.

The only way I can review Open Your Heart, then, is just as an album, and it’s a very good album. It is well paced, sequenced, and produced; it holds your attention from start to finish. The album opens with the one-two pairing of “Turn It Around” and “Animal,” two fast-paced rockers based on loud, catchy riffs.

The album then takes a slower turn with “Country Song,” a rambling instrumental track stretching to almost six minutes. The last minute and a half are mostly atmospheric noise and functions as both a coda to “Country Song” and a prelude to the next track, “Oscillation,” which builds on fuzzy, driving guitars with vocals delayed to the end.

“Oscillation” comes to a clean stop, but its beat is continued on “Please Don’t Go Away,” which picks up the pace a little, adding intense drumming to the driving fuzzy guitars. “Please Don’t Go Away” comes to a fairly unsatisfying, unresolved conclusion, and then The Men launch into the title track, “Open Your Heart,” one of the album’s finest songs and its first single. The guitar tones are cleaned up and brought forward in the mix, and they pound out a simple and catchy chord progression, backed by some equally pounding percussion. Four more songs follow on the album.

The Men have produced 10 great songs, all of which come together in a cohesive album. While the sequencing of the second half is a little frustrating and prevents the album from settling into a groove, it also keeps things unpredictable. Whether this is a pro or a con depends on the listener, and even varies from listen to listen. In the end, Open Your Heart is an excellent effort.


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