Review Summary: Another uneven collection of disparate influences united only by the group's collective swagger
Earlier this year, Justin Moyer penned an essay for the Washington City Paper entitled “Our Band Could Be Your Band: How the Brooklynization of Culture Killed Regional Music Scenes.” In it, he argued that the enshrinement of Brooklyn as the home of the cool has led to the widespread adoption of the Brooklyn Aesthetic - everything is beginning to sound like everything else. 4 years into their career, Brooklynite garagers the Men are shaping up to be a letter-for-letter example of the over-saturated sponge-band Mr. Moyer rails against. Their second long player, “Open Your Heart,” has all the confidence of a sophomore release, but maintains the intensely scatterbrained structure of something sorely amateur.
This is a better overall product than 2011’s “Leave Home.” The band have tightened up and mellowed out. Only once do they venture into the sludge, on “Cube,” and it’s no mudslide (see “Think” from “Leave Home”). Unfortunately, instead of following this apparent trend of maturity by drawing in their exploratory tendrils and focusing on toning a unique sound, it seems the Men have simply eschewed old influences for new, possibly more intriguing ones. And without all that unifying slop, the derivations become even more crystal clear.
The country sound is certainly something new. At first it seems endearing. Put together with the overall punk aesthetic, it feels like early Meat Puppets sans psychosis, but then you shouldn’t pretend to be what you’re not. The title track, however enjoyable, is just a (very) slight re-imagining of the Buzzcocks’ ultra-perfect “Ever Fallen in Love” single. “Presence” may as well be a Spacemen 3 song. The undoubtable low-point of the album is “Candy”, a drooling sort-of-Stones alt-country ballad complete with very ineffective and cluttered lap-steel guitar atmospherics.
It’s that confidence I mentioned earlier that makes “Open Your Heart” tolerable and, hell, even enjoyable at points. They’re talented musicians, and they’re headstrong enough to pull off some of their plagiarisms with a degree of success. They simply lack the audacity (or maybe the drive) to make something of their own. “Open Your Heart” fails ultimately in answering the critical question the group themselves are afraid to ask: who are the Men? Until they figure it out, you’re better off enjoying their source material.