Review: The Men - Open Your Heart

With Open Your Heart, The Men's virtuosic treatment of post-punk hardcore has exponentially expanded.

A- | 03.06.12 | SACRED BONES | MP3 | CD | VINYL

Talk about an SEO nightmare. This review is not about Le Tigre electropop off-chute MEN (who ironically also hail from Brooklyn). Nor is it about L.A. based one-hit wonder pop rockers of the exact same name. Our subjects began four years ago as two thrashing twenty-somethings (Mark Perro & Nick Chiericozzi) brandishing their caustic weapons with shoegazed abandon. Now with the addition of a “real” drummer in Rich Samis and replacing original bassist Chris Hansell with trance drone savant Ben Greenberg (aka Hubble); their virtuosic treatment of post-punk hardcore has exponentially expanded.

Any die hard DIY punk rock historian will immediately hear some sludge metal Melvins, Sub Pop era Mudhoney or distorted pop hooks Jello Biafra would gobble up and spit out in a second. On last summer’s Leave Home they slime their SST doppelganger all over the blackened walls of hardcore’s past and emerged holding a heart shaped box of assorted and very loud sonic treats.

Oddly enough, the same week The Boss drops his best album of the last 20 years, our Men have crafted something almost as timeless — a hardcore album with a pure heart. Maybe this new anachronistic polish can be attributed to their recent citing of Big Star and Dylan (Mexican outlaw Street Legal era) as influences for this their third full length release.

I picture a reverent swindling Gram Parsons on the oh-so-bitter-sweet “Candy”. “When I hear the radio play/I don’t care that it’s not me/Remember the days I shouted and begged for you to see me/Now when I sing my voice issss...” If Hemingway still roamed the Caribbean, like the poet sailor he was, this song would be humming from down below while he handed you a mojito and told you “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.” Strong melody, strong whiskey and bad karma ultimately define the defiant under currents of this hidden gem.

A rhythm guitar (which they’ve only recently incorporated) makes Open Your Heart opener “Turn it Around” sound like Eagles of Death Metal on a Fugazi binge. You wouldn’t expect anything approaching heavy metal after hearing the first few measures of anthemic arena noodling. Then those disjunct ‘80s indie rock scale shifts snake their way through a concentrated assault of power chords and a spectacular coda guided by Samis’ thunderous mastery of his diabolical kit.

“Country Song” is an ideal soundtrack for wandering aimlessly through a parched wasteland. The buzzards are biding their time circling above. The only solace you can muster is licking every sweet dissipating guitar peel off the few bones you trip over along the way. And thanks to the spaced out pacing of grave drums, off-key lead guitar and a final reel of grainy yellow-bellied loops to boot, there’s plenty of dust-soaked skeletons to go around.

Subsequent track “Oscillation” stays on the hellbent rails just laid down before it; adopting a new cast of upbeat characters along the way. The arpeggios are wound much tighter and spring toward an unfamiliar light courtesy of Perro and Chiericozzi’s interplay. It’s downright maddening that the tempo never seems to stop building. Indiscernible drones of “agitate the few” wander through a rhythm section careening toward the edge at an alarming rate. The contrasting warbles of Perro’s lead guitar imbue the calamity with some semblance of sanity before the wall of sound becomes to great to bear its own weight, collapsing with succinct precision.

“Presence” and “Ex-Dreams” are polar opposites. A penultimate legend of the distances mapped out across such an expansive journey. Brooding mid-tempo overdrive blaze the trail on the former; a staunch reminder that they are not just limited to the hormonal surges of yesteryear’s punk. As far as the latter is concerned, it truly does sound like a grungier version of what some blogs refer to them as — Thurston Moore & The E-Street Band. For now I’ll stick with D. Boon & Death From Above 1979.