The Men / ‘Open Your Heart’

Last year Leave Home’s crude arrival  was like a sucker punch to the kidneys. Gritty, filthy, essential and unashamed of the bands musical legacy, the record encompassed everything from thrash and doom metal in it’s influences. Not  a cohesive record, but this playful  amateurism to tackle all genres gave this thing a veneer of charm on this gnarled object. Since then the band have talked about moving away from this monolithic noise structure and onto something dare I say it  ‘softer’…

With a riff that sounds identical to the Stiff Little Fingers classic ‘Suspect Device’ the sound of the new record is revealed. ‘Turn it around’ opens Open up Your Heart, and don’t tell me you weren’t surprised.  Gone are the extended intros and vile coughs from behind the mixing desk and in it’s place stands a very straightforwardly produced  track with a fairly conventional song structure and sound. Saying that, the song is propellent, the chorus is good and the guitar breakdown nearing the end is ace. ‘Animal’  hints at the looseness of Leave Home. Thudding drum patterns,  murmurs from the band and then the thing explodes into a loose punk belter, including some female vocals in the chorus and this strange hovering sound effect in the chorus that sounds like a razor rigged up to an amplifier.

However, what really grates me about this record is the majority of the instrumental passages . ‘Country Song’ is my main gripe. The sounds aren’t exactly the most exciting thing you’ll hear this year, and while it may act as a bridge to the other cuts on the record, it is a simple throwaway.  Despite this early set-back things pick up again in ‘Oscillation’, a solid guitar groover pulsing and withering around this beautiful guitar melody like traffic moving through spaghetti junction. After this extended instrumental passage vocal murmurs join in, morphing the track into this sleazy and driving guitar epic.

Now, things start to get complicated,  track ‘Open your Heart’ initally filled me with resent, something so soppy was never my idea of what this band were about. While this track fits in with the feel of the record, the slacker 90’s sounding guitar licks and passionate vocal delivery makes it dificult for me to get fully onboard.  Next track ‘Candy’ is awful. Ditching the electronic for a acoustic guitar, The Men take the sentimentality of ‘Open your Heart’ one step too far,  the track is quite simply a forgettable and boring ballad.  As you can probably tell Like Leave Home this thing is all over the place sound-wise. Scatterbrained beyond belief ‘Cube’ returns to the frantic wails of the band letting loose, reverb-laden mini guitar solos sounding like Dinosaur Jr, and the vocals like a tin can in a meat-grinder.

As the record ends I’m left feeling slightly perplexed. Of course there are good tracks on this record, but the sense of fun on their previous sound has been replaced by a seriousness that just isn’t as appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be spinning this thing for a while now, but with a few tweaks the record could have been so much better.

Alex Hall

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