Music

The Men: Open Your Heart

Recalling Yo La Tengo (circa 1997) and Sonic Youth (circa 1988), the new album from the Men delivers delicious noise pop, but it promises to wear thin with time.


The Men

Open Your Heart

Label: Sacred Bones
US Release Date: 2012-03-06
UK Release Date: 2012-03-12
Amazon
iTunes

I demand a lot from any album. I have impossibly high standards and relish inking my perpetual disappointment. Yet, from the Men, I ask even more. In part, it's because they feature a member of the legendary (and recently defunct) Pygmy Shrews. In part, it's because their debut album was so highly overrated. In part, it's because, for years now, I've been calling for an airlift to drop distortion pedals over Brooklyn, and I'm starting to think someone finally did it.

There's a simple idea behind the Men. The band combines elements of shoegaze with elements of hardcore and '70s punk. No doubt they would disagree with this generalization, and to be fair, they do other things too -- but the shoegaze-punk collision is what makes the Men the Men. Of course, they aren't the first band to try this particular subgenre blend (No Age, anyone?) but few bands have done it this well.

Indeed, the Men do sound a bit like No Age, but their approach is different. While No Age usually write punchy, punky songs with manic drumming, the Men take a little more time to explore. On many of the songs on Open Your Heart, they take a single simple idea and turn it over, building it up and teasing it out.

It's not all lengthy meditations and disquisitions, though. There's some straight-up pop tunes here, like the raging opener "Turn It Around". All hooks and overdrive, pedal to the metal, balls to the wall, the track hurtles forth with the zeal of youth. Even the lyrics are classic. This is what a rock song is supposed to sound like. The second track, "Animal", falls short of its magnetic predecessor, but its snarling rage recalls the Sex Pistols. The guitars wail as the vocals back up a hoarse, roaring lead with melodic singing. The unhurried "Candy" fares less well, with a melody that overshoots 'catchy' and lands in 'annoying.'

The longer tracks are also hit and miss. "Country Song", in particular, is a bit insulting -- we are being asked to spend six minutes listening to a song the band couldn't even be bothered to name. Nor could they even be bothered to write it; 'song' is an overstatement, since it sounds more like a jam than a composition. It's actually not bad, as far as self-indulgent six-minute instrumental jams go, but it was a better sound when Yo La Tengo tried it 15 years ago.

As a whole, the album sounds more than a little like Yo La Tengo circa 1997 with their sprawling pop manifestos of comforting noise. On the one hand, that's to say it's not the most original of records, but on the other, there are worse bands to resemble. Sometimes the Men get it right, as with the relaxed dissonance of "Presence". The song is lazy in all the right ways with patient plodding drums and hazy guitars. When the bass finally comes in, it's arresting. On the other hand, tracks like "Oscillation" and "Please Don't Leave", though enjoyable at first, wear thin before they're over.

Likewise, "Open Your Heart" is catchy, but there's not enough songwriting to sustain it. The aggressive "Cube" fares better with rumbling distorted bass and shrieking feedback. It's also the shortest track on the album, and even it seems slightly overextended. The closer, "Ex-Dreams", is a less-than-subtle nod to late 80's Sonic Youth; even the vocals recall Thurston Moore's boyish punk charm. Luckily, the Men get this one right, blasting out one of their most exciting songs to date.

At the end of the day, the Men aren't quite all they're cracked up to be, but even a bitter cynic like me has to admit, this album is worth a listen. It's too watered down to stand the test of time, but right now, it hits the spot.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.