Album Review

Open Your Heart

Open Your Heart

by The Men

Sacred Bones Records
7 / 10
24th August 2012

Reviewed by Michael Harvey

Call it the School of 'Our Band Could Be Your Life'. Michael Azzerad's seminal 2001 book documents some of the key bands in US underground rock during the post-punk, pre-grunge years (i.e. the eighties!). It's a great read, giving you some insight into the minds of the people who have made some of the greatest music of the last four decades, from Greg Ginn's authoritarian control of Black Flag to the fact that Sonic Youth signed to SST Records because it was the most shit-hot indie label running at that point in time. However, in the last few years it has become apparent that the book has become something of a Cliff's Notes to being a hot underground band. Go through the book, and check the boxes of the important moments that make or break the prodigal heroes of whatever chapter you're up to. Local labels are too pretentious? Start one up that releases you and your friends' bands! Not giving insane enough live performances? Get a naked dancer to join the band! Getting too big in the underground scene? Sign to a major and subvert the corporate music industry from the inside! However, reading a book and playing music are two separate (and possibly mutually exclusive) things. This phenomenon is becoming somewhat pronounced and the book should be only available to people in anthropology courses doing ethnographies of local DIY scenes, instead of musicians who are looking for 16 new favourite bands to amalgamate into one cohesive tome of music.

And here we have The Men. Coming on like the Replacements did all those years ago, the Brooklyn band have created an album that fits into the mold of all those legendary bands, some thirty years too late. That said, and we wouldn't want to be taking this too seriously now, Open Your Heart is ultimately a fun, influences-worn-on-sleeve rock'n'roll record. Opening cut "Turn It Around" is the kind of thing the 'Mats could do in their sleep, a rocking vibe and a melodic vocal delivery, segueing into "Animal", a garage punk blast with much more forceful vocals. "Country Song" is just that, mining a slower and more spacious feel than the preceding music, and recalls the punk'n'western sonics of the Meat Puppets. The title track boasts one of the best choruses on the record, whereas "Candy" sees the band working in a less-fuzzed-out context, with wistful "I just quit my job" lyrics. "Presence" is an altogether more psychedelic journey over the course of it's 7 minutes, a droning intro giving way to an impassioned jam, before "Ex-Dreams" brings the record full circle, with some driving indie rock.

Open Your Heart is a decent enough, good times rock'n'roll album at best, and highly derivative at worst. These guys aren't going to change the face of music anytime soon, no matter how hard they ape their storied predecessors. Though to their credit, they probably don't give a damn! And who knows, if Azzerad ever pens a sequel to Our Band Could Be Your Life, maybe these guys will get a mention somewhere.

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