Release Date: Mar 6, 2012
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Hardcore, Indie Rock, Noise-Rock
Go draw a bath. You're going to need one after hanging with brooklyn scuzz-noise maniacs the Men. "I'm the animal," singer-guitarist Nick Chiericozzi blathers, doing his best grizzly bear imeprsonation over Mudhoney/Stooges piledriver swagger. It's the kind of thuggin' audacity one would expect from dudes who stole a Ramones album title for last year's seething Leave Home.
In 2011, more than a few articles were drafted, edited and published, their authors’ armed with hindsight and sentimentality as they all looked back on 2001 with fond remembrances of the year that rock and/or popular music regained relevance. The Strokes’ Is This It and White Blood Cells by The White Stripes had both blown out their tenth candle and the adoration was considerable, as were the accolades: “Saviors of Rock n’ Roll. ” While it’s easy to point to The White Stripes and The Strokes and declare with certainty that these bands saved rock n’ roll, I think it would be fair to say that both bands simply revived a sound that had been buried under a blanket of late 90s bubblegum pop and diluted alt-rock self-importance.
The MenOpen Your Heart[Sacred Bones; 2012]By Jon Blistein; March 7, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetI almost don’t know how to write about this record. I mean I really like it; like I really, really like it. It’s immersive and dense, thick with low-end guitar tracks that drape over you, but not so heavy that it envelops because if it did those scorchers piercing the sky above on tracks like “Oscillation” wouldn’t so easily get lodged in that sweet spot at the crossroads between your ear your brain and your gut.
"huh-HAAWWWACK." I don't know if I transcribed it properly, but Chris Hansell's revolting cough, which appeared midway through the Men's 2011 LP Leave Home, was pretty much everyone's favorite lyric from the record. Understandably so. While Leave Home was often ugly and brutal, it felt almost physically necessary, an allergic reaction to the repression of all things abrasive and loud amidst indie rock's digitized echo chamber.
Nonchalantly balking the gender-bending currently trending in modern band names (see: Girls, Women, The xx, etc.), The Men return with a follow-up to last summer’s Leave Home, a mainline noise-punk onslaught that roundly refused to cease and desist. Fortunately, Open Your Heart is no less difficult to pin down. A healthy dose of genre-bending instead palpitates throughout this track list, in faux form on the delirium tremolo of instrumental “Country Song,” and in earnest on the twangy “Candy,” the jolt of which is a dead ringer for the effect that Mick ’n’ Keith’s “Dead Flowers” had on the backside of Sticky Fingers.
While Brooklyn's the Men (not all of them are, as it goes) operate firmly within the parameters laid down in the early days of US indie-rock – guitars, distortion, weirdness, melody, more or less in that order – they seem to have read around the subject so much that if we were to start naming all the bands and records echoed on their third album, we'd be here all night. It's a spirited distillation of three decades of leftfield rock tactics that has its pretty moments and its fearsome ones. In the former camp are the fuzz-blasted swooning of Please Don't Go Away, Country Song's sunset twang and heavy shimmer, and Candy, which could be an outtake from the Replacements' masterpiece, Tim.
Every so often the music media pick a band to hype as "the saviours of guitar rock." Currently that band is the Men. Guitar rock isn't a genre that particularly needs saving - no matter how infatuated indie kids get with synthesizers, its doubtful the guitar will ever disappear from popular music - but the Men represent a return to a specific kind of rock for which the zeitgeist has been begging. Where bands like Yuck deliver albums of throwback 90s indie rock by cherry-picking traits from Dinosaur Jr, Hüsker Dü or Sonic Youth, the Men embody that era of American underground in spirit more than fashion.
It’s a shame that bloggers still haven’t learned how to talk up a promising young rock band without constructing the entire critical conversation around the self-evident importance of dudes with dicks playing guitars. The hype surrounding Brooklyn’s latest rock export carries a distinct whiff of the locker room, and not just because the dudes in question call themselves the Men. Though Open Your Heart is a far tamer trip than the Men’s previous effort, it’s still earned the group high fives for injecting testosterone into indie and reasserting the fearsome carnality of the guitar while so many of their peers are effeminized by the sampler and the synthesizer—as though they didn’t give the same party-crasher plaudits to Girls, WU LYF, Ice Age, and at least a dozen rock acts last year (though in fairness, the most formidable indie axe-slingers of 2011, Wild Flag and St.
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.
As a critic, it’s tempting to try to force a band like The Men into some kind of narrative, whether that be a narrative of opposition to the current hypnogogic post-chillwavestep musical zeitgeist, or a narrative of rebirth for a long-buried DIY punk ethos. But the truth is, through all the years of shifting trends and fads, guitar bands have always been with us — or have we forgotten about such year-end-listable artists as Titus Andronicus, Fucked up, HEALTH, No Age, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and Marnie Stern? 2012 will not be the year that the punk breaks again, and The Men are not the lone standard-bearers shrieking their feedback into an otherwise guitarless void. They are just a really talented band emerging from an unbroken stream of similarly talented bands.
The Men's Leave Home, gracing many a Top 10 list last year, was a wonderful mess. The band boasts three separate songwriters, and a conscious no-particular-focus ethos that lets them explore whatever direction they damned well please, with in-the-red gusto. The result was (and remains here) a train wreck of the sounds gracing indie rock's most sacred and pioneering labels—SST, Twin/Tone, Homestead, et al—and a re-kindling of that same anything-goes spirit.
Us British folks have only just been given a shoeing from ‘Leave Home’, the second album from NYC hardcore-not-hardcore hellions The Men, and along comes a follow-up. Overall, ‘Open Your Heart’ is breezier and more tuneful than its predecessor, but this is very relative.There are still buzzing hairballs of psychedelic punk, vocals fighting for priority in the gnarly mix, a Sonic Youth-ish nose for detuned exhilaration in cuts like ‘Oscillation’ and ‘Cube’. Factor in the title track (aka the cheekiest Buzzcocks homage you ever heard) and understand that these cats are riding the DIY-punk-to-lamestream-tonguebath train for very good reasons.[i]Noel Gardner[/i] .
Somebody in New York wrecking crew the Men always seems to know what is going to happen more than a year in advance. New album Open Your Heart was recorded in 2011, while previous album Leave Home was busy bludgeoning its way into the hearts of critics and listeners, garnering the band higher degrees of recognition and exposure. One listen to this new album makes it seem like they knew they would be playing to larger audiences by this time this year.
Every so often, a band gets hailed as the saviors of rock ‘n’ roll—beer-guzzling guitar bashers who bring reprieve from an indie scene muddled with laptops, samplers, and smart haircuts. It happened with The Hold Steady around 2006 and before that with The White Stripes and The Strokes. It’s a silly gimmick created by bored music journalists because guitar music is in fact not dead, nor was it ever, but it happens every few years all the same.
Reading the music press of late, it would appear that rock music doesn’t seem to have a present tense: it’s all dead riffs and archived solos, locked in a box labelled ‘classic’, covered in dust in the attic of a house full of techno, synthwave and electronica. Or at least it was until last year, when the name The Men spread like wildfire on the back of Leave Home. Like the band's name, Leave Home was a blunt introductive exercise, part way between Greg Ginn-ian sludge and Generation X punk’n’roll.
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 ….
Appropriately classifying a band as one filled with energy is a surely cliché feeling nowadays. Truth is energy is a requirement to sustain any kind of feverish following, let alone to succeed as a band. For Brooklyn’s The Men, the raw and visceral rock they create flows from their immense energy and fortunately, it appears to be an endless supply.
These Brooklyn-based animal men are rocking for themselves, but we’re all invited. Darren Loucaides 2012 Most artists think about things like cohesion and balance when putting an album together. The Men, instead, do whatever the hell they want. Just try to follow the twists and turns in this head-spinning synopsis of third album, Open Your Heart, and you’ll understand… After the punk-rock romps of the two openers, Turn It Around and Animal, there’s a five-minute wandering thing called Country Song, which segues into Oscillation – a slow-building patina of samey guitars and propulsive percussion that only deigns to include vocals (spoken word) at the five-minute mark, before pushing on for two more minutes.
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.
Brooklyn, NY four-piece the Men have made a habit out of confounding expectations, abandoning sounds quicker than a pop star changes costumes. Just as the bleak noise of their debut gave way to the warped hardcore of last year's much lauded Leave Home, their third effort sounds like a lost collaboration between Bob Mould and the Replacements. Linking these disparate styles is the visceral power the Men bring to everything they do.
Screw art, the Men are just looking for a good time. A boozy, rocks-off enterprise, the Brooklyn quartet's obsessed with building the merriest rock & roll out there, and its third album, Open Your Heart, is the closest it's come to immaculate debauchery. Opener "Turn It Around" blows the doors off with a mainlined, Grohl-aping pummel; the seven-minute rev-up jam "Oscillation" radiates emphatic freshness, and the languid, bar-stool jaunt "Candy" vibes like an Exile on Main Street outtake.