There’s something special about a group that entirely shifts their sound from one record to another. Brooklyn-based The Men are one of those bands. With their new record, Open Your Heart, it’s apparent that it’s miles away from 2010’s Immaculada and last year’s Leave Home both in sonics and songcraft.
Tuneage instead of tonnage is the real story here. For the uninitiated, the prior two albums were variants of blue-in-the-face scuzz rock, low on songcraft and high on volume. (Stuff not for the faint at heart, but if you want to try it, “Night Landing” will surely be disorienting.) Their latest is anything but. They have have ditched that formula for something way more basic, and brawnier. There’s no better example than the album’s title track, a Let It Be-era Replacements cataclysm. Strong on hooks, pleading vocals and an earworm of a bass line, there’s no reason it’s not a song-of-the-year candidate. “Turn It Around,” the album opener, is four minutes of fist pumping heroism and an undeniable show-opener. “I wanna…” choruses and wild soloing will ignite crowds everywhere. Then there’s the oddly named “Country Song,” which sounds more like incidental music from Friday Night Lights than it’s namesake. (“Candy,” which comes later on the album would be more aptly named.)
What’s most impressive about this album may not be the songs themselves. It might be the fact that the band that created it was able to turn out a release so confident in a sound that is nothing like they’ve released before. It also leaves those to wonder what’s next for The Men. They’re a band that’s yet to peak, and every record they’ve made is a fine example of that. Open Your Heart isn’t just a clever title. It’s a request.