Starting in the late aughts, buzzwords like chillwave, insert-adjective-here reverb, and witch house dominated the underground rock lexicon, leaving listeners at a bit of a loss for sounds with, shall we say, cajones, but along with recent bands like Iceage, Merchandise, and Broken Water, the Men brought grit and guts back into the equation. On Open Your Heart, the Men's second record for the Sacred Bones label, the Brooklyn band build on the momentum of 2011's menacing Leave Home to deliver a muscular, dynamic tribute to all things rock. It continues in the band's restless tradition; where their pre-Sacred Bones records like Immaculada melded black metal, drone, and Krautrock influences, Leave Home expanded on that foundation to add more melody and structure, and here they grow broader still, replacing some of the blistering intensity of their previous works with something just as tough but warmer -- imagine the Touch & Go, SST, or Homestead catalogs at their best, synthesized through the Men's consistently fresh perspective. The other major change since Leave Home is the lineup; previously, guitarists Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi along with bassist Chris Hansell shared drumming duties, but here Rich Samis officially fills the drummer slot, which not only beefs up the rhythm section but also makes room for Perro and Chiericozzi to really let the double-guitar work rip, and generally makes for their most live-sounding record yet. Where Leave Home opener "If You Leave..." kicked things off with a howl, Open Your Heart lead-off "Turn It Around" is more of a shout, having more to do with Japandroids or Rocket from the Crypt than, say, No Age. Amidst the record's circa Our Band Could Be Your Life guitar buzz, the Men channel their energy in new ways, from a Spacemen 3-meets-Morricone excursion ("Country Song") and Neu!'s cerebral Krautrock rhythms ("Oscillation"), to Silver Apples' sprawling psychedelia ("Presence") and most surprisingly, to the midtempo, country-tinged "Candy," while fans of Leave Home will enjoy the kinetic fuzzfests of "Please Don't Go Away" and "Cube." With Open Your Heart, the Men achieve the elusive balance of growing their sound without diluting the intensity and attitude that made them great in the first place, weaving together their influences with fresh ears and a nuanced touch, making for one of the year's most satisfying listens.
Open Your Heart Review
by Chrysta Cherrie