The Men - Open Your Heart (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Men

Open Your Heart (2012)

Sacred Bones

It seems odd that one of the punkest records of 2012 would open with a riff reminiscent of the Doobie Brothers' "China Grove," but it does. After that opening guitar lick, however, "Turn It Around" erupts into a full-blown '80s punk stomper in the spirit of Keith Morris-era Black Flag and announces that the Men's sophomore album, Open Your Heart, has arrived.

While the record is clearly a logical progression from last year's Leave Home, the record is overall less noisy and dissonant than its predecessor, leaving more room for the songs themselves to make their mark. Some of those tracks are downright weird, such as the nearly six-minute, reverb-drenched instrumental "Country Song" that segues nicely into "Oscillation," which somehow manages to be both droning and upbeat at the same time. "Cube" is one of the most aggressive tracks on the album, and contains a throbbing bass riff that recalls Goat-era Jesus Lizard. They're not afraid to employ non-traditional instrumentation (is that a steel guitar I hear on "Presence"?) either.

The Men have been never been shy about displaying their influences (Their last album was called Leave Home, for crying out loud) and that tradition carries over here. The main guitar riff of the title track is a dead ringer for Buzzcocks classic "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn'tve?)." Through melding their early punk rock influences with a willingness to experiment however, they've carved a unique little niche for themselves. You won't find many other records like this in 2012.

With Open Your Heart, the Men have crafted an album that refuses to be pigeonholed, yet remain completely, unabashedly, 100 percent punk rock. They are a breath of fresh air in a genre that can grow stagnant rather easily. The noisy garage influences of their past work are still, but they've grown by leaps and bounds. This is a band to watch.