There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned, skull-splitting album-opener. Judged on those merits alone, Open Your Heart‘s “Turn it Around” completely fucking aces its final exam. Moreover, it’s a refreshing, accessible upgrade for the Men, the Brooklyn noisemakers who set speakers smoking with last year’s overdriven, occasionally overindulgent and ultimately overwhelming Leave Home. Its mix of shoegaze grandiosity and punk grit was exciting and powerful, but there were moments where one wondered what they’d sound like if they reined it in with a couple of hooks.
Open Your Heart is the answer. The album is divided roughly into three categories: rockers (the abovementioned “Turn it Around,” the Buzzcockian power pop of the title track, and the straight-up hardcore “Cube”), chill-outs (the aptly titled instrumental “Country Song,” the halcyon-era-Meat-Puppets-doing-Poison drinking song, “Candy”) and Leave Home sister songs (building, stretch-outs “Oscillation” and “Presence”). These categories aren’t compartmentalized. Instead, they mix and mingle like you do at any great party, screamers butting elbows with blue-collar laments, rave-ups doing shots with the burnouts.
It’s uncommon for a rock ‘n’ roll band to show such proficiency in genre-dabbling, but the Men pull it off, and it’s exciting to think about what they might do given full-on immersion into one of the many directions hinted at on Open Your Heart. When American Sun’s Holly Overton shows up to croon on a couple tracks, her feathery backing vocals providing balance to a screaming mix that often threatens to push too far into the red, it’s tempting to hope she’ll join the band. A record-length meditation on upbeat, Big-Star-inspired love songs would thrill, no doubt, but hey, what if they did a full-on country album? The potential, clearly, is unending. Thankfully, so are the rewards.