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Reviews

The Men
Open Your Heart Julian Marszalek , March 13th, 2012 08:02

It's difficult to escape the feeling that those misguided souls bemoaning the supposed death of rock & roll are the very same people who get excited by any old schmindie bollocks troubling the charts or Shed Seven getting back together one more time. Indeed, if they actually stopped waiting to be spoon fed The Next Big Thing then they'd be busy working themselves into a lather over this latest set of aural detonations from the collective hand grenade that is The Men.

Picking up where the excellent Leave Home left off at the arse end of last year, Open Your Heart is a crystallised distillation of 40 years of rock that fuses the genre's noisier elements – The Stooges, Black Flag and Husker Du all spring to mind – with its more cerebral exponents such as Spacemen 3 and Sonic Youth. But this is no mere tribute or homage to days gone by; The Men stamp enough of their own personality and perspective over the ten nuggets contained herein to breathe new life into this old beast.

A number of significant factors are at play here. Having finally settled on a stable line-up – Rick Samis now takes up the tubthumping duties previously shared by the band – the interplay between guitarists Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi becomes more apparent and the result is a fuller and wider sound. What's also in evidence is a greater mastery of melody. Opener 'Turn It Around' channels Stiff Little Fingers' 'Suspect Device' through a 21st century filter and enough hooks to mark The Men as something remarkable. Their blending of accessible tunes and unrestrained sonic power sees them sharing the modus operandi of antecedents of Husker Du but it's The Men's forays into wider territories that sets them apart from the pack.

The double-whammy instrumentals of 'Country Song' and the epic 'Oscillation' find the band moving deftly from a Morricone-influenced haze into the kind of wig-out that Sonic Youth would do if they took themselves less seriously and learned to smile a bit more. The effect is both startling and hugely satisfying but the surprises don't end there. Pulling out an acoustic guitar for the country-tinged 'Candy', The Men could either be taking the piss or playing it straight.

Ultimately such analysis does no one any favours when the music found in these grooves amounts to nothing less than a party in a jewel case. When it's played with such joy, such gusto and such disregard for what's supposedly cool or not, resistance simply isn't an option. Coupled with a palpable musical progression that takes huge strides from its predecessor, Open Your Heart is the most thrilling and exciting album of the year thus far and one that demands your immediate attention. So what are you still doing here?

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