Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Men's "Open Your Heart": Music Review

"Turn It Around" starts with a "Suspect Device" riff from Stiff Little Fingers, and then expands into a rama-lama punk-pop song reminiscent of the Buzzcocks. As I like those two bands a lot, I liked this. That shows the strengths or limits of this album. For those of us who heard the bands thirty years ago, it's a solid homage to a variety of punk styles. To take that first song, it does wander even in a few minutes as the guitar does not seem to know where to go, and it feels as if editing might have helped. The Men lock into a direction for a few seconds, and then they shift. Not sure if this is restlessness or inspiration. Yet, for this time and place, this music fills a niche even if it's not groundbreaking.

Shorter songs can be traced back. "Animal" in its spareness reminds me of Feedtime, a little-known Australian blues-punk trio from the '80s (See my review of their The Aberrant Years) "Please Don't Go Away" loads on the layers, as if a fast shoegazing tune.

"Open Your Heart" could fit into American college rock from the early Dinosaur Jr. era, or the Replacements. "Cube" pushes towards a hardcore style, tinged with poppier touches, as those same bands once delivered. "Country Song" uses effects to sustain its guitar, and this textural experimentation shows a movement towards structure that may bode well for future albums. "Ex-Dreams" closes the album in similar fashion--the longer songs take time to experiment for a few seconds to their benefit--blending however the Krautrock with a Sonic Youth-filtered Daydream Nation vintage vocal mood.

Speaking of longer songs, the appeal of the Brooklyn (of course) band's style deepened for me as it was for the original punks by nods to Krautrock, as in the longer songs such as "Oscillation." I'm a sucker for Krautrock, I admit. "Presence" does this with more of a Spacemen 3 or Loop hint, an obsessive build-up akin to another band who returns to such sounds, Oneida.

"Candy" apes a countrified or fried Mick Jagger too much for me. Still, even as the weakest track, it's not awful. These days, such qualifies for praise in a music scene where such bands as The Men mash together the best of their record collections. It's fun for those of us who had been there, heard that, and it may blend in well with a mixtape of their inspirations. (I also reviewed their earlier album, Leave Home, which is rawer, fuzz-driven, and bolder.) {Amazon US 7-3-12}

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