The Men - Open Your Heart

(Sacred Bones Records, 2012)

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"[The Men are] setting the record straight on Open Your Heart, the title of which is so plainspoken and commonplace it's easy to overlook just how much the band backs it up by maintaining every last bit of visceral power of Leave Home while letting in so many more people to the party. Open Your Heart is both tremendously physical and friendly, knocking you on your ass one second, then immediately helping you back up to put a beer in your hand.

While there's a surface shift in attitude, Open Your Heart shares Leave Home's uncanny ability to balance reverence and irreverence, enthusiasm, and expertise, treating the last four decades of rock music like an amusement park rather than a museum. "Country Song" isn't even the one song on Open Your Heart deserving of that title (that would be "Candy"), but it shows how their minds work. A gummy tremolo riff, whining pedal steel, and an atypical waltz beat are the raw ingredients, but through the Men's artistic prism, it becomes something akin to a Southern bar band saying "fuck it" and letting their freak flag fly for a lengthy last-call jam.

Before Leave Home became their first widely available LP, the Men's recorded output consisted mostly of self-made cassettes that they recently gave away for free through their website.  They had to play a little rough if they wanted to be heard.  A year later, Open Your Heart is the sort of record that proves while pain and loss are often viewed as great art's true catalysts, bands like the Men can be inspired by the sort of confidence born of the bills being paid and the boss no longer breathing down their necks. And they're passing on the goodwill to everyone who made it possible: if you bought their t-shirt, came to their show, raved about Leave Home on your Tumblr, or seek to carry on tradition by starting your own band, Open Your Heart is the Men thanking you in the best way possible." - Ian Cohen for Pitchfork (8.5, Best New Music)