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Album Review: “Open Your Heart” – The Men

Open Your Heart - The Men

Because I have gained inestimable renown over my numerous years as Culture Blues music czar, people often go out of their way to ask me about the state of the current musical landscape, and for recommendations. In 2012,  I have thus far met these inquiries with a modicum of consternation and dismay, because aside from the new Cloud Nothings, there hasn’t been anything out there that has really blown me away. I did recently write a favorable review of the new Grimes record, but even I recognize that she is a highly-stylized and acquired taste. Well, luckily for me, and for those wise souls who seek my council, I have just heard 2012’s newest great record, and it’s Open Your Heart, by The Men.

In an era where most critically acclaimed and popular music seems like it requires a certain element of calculated artistry, apathy, and obfuscation, there is something so immediate, loose, and, dare I say exciting, about The Men’s Open Your Heart, that it almost feels like it comes from another era. I personally am a monstrous fan of The Rolling Stones (you should be, too), and somehow Open Your Heart manages to tap into the same energy that was immortalized during The Stones’ early 70s releases, which they combine with a more modern sonic palette and sensibility, and adds a touch of punk and post-shoegaze, to create a killer record that sounds like it can unravel at any moment. There has not been a more thrilling collection of ten tracks on a rock record all year, and The Men can now rest comfortably in the clubhouse while the rest of the field attempts to catch up (a task that will not be easy).

Open Your Heart grabs you by the throat from the moment the whiskey-soaked garage energy of its opener, Turn It Around, explodes in your ears and announces the band's presence bombastically. Once the opener is over, Animal continues the fun by strutting recklessly through your brain, knocking shit over, and spilling its drink everywhere. At this point the album could have easily repeated this sonic template over the last eight tracks and I would have been satisfied, but The Men take a much more daring turn and provide us with ten plus superb minutes of instrumental spread over two tracks: Country Song and Oscillation. Country Song is a down-tempo, tremolo-drenched, legato-smeared cut, that shows off more of those lovely Rolling Stones tendencies I spoke of earlier, while Oscillation is a much more modern animal that almost sounds like Broken Social Scene at times (always a good thing), and is without question one of the best songs of 2012. When the more conventional song structures return it’s with a Creation Records-era blast by way of Please Don’t Go Away, which leads to the record’s second half and other splendors. Candy, for example, is a country ballad that wants to be Dead Flowers more than words can describe, but I have no issue with that - Dead Flowers is a fine song to strive to be - and Presence is a track that goes far beyond a reverential homage to Led Zeppelin, it’s a legit as hell barn burner that I am sure would please both Mr. Page and Mr. Plant.

Sometimes a record is so good it doesn’t need pomp, ceremony, or long-winded reviews. This is just such an occasion, kids. You need to get your hands on this record immediately, it may very well change your opinion about this year in music. After all, it did so for me.

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