CD Review: The Walkmen

Band matures with sophomore disc

Bows and Arrows


The Walkmen (Record Collection) Indie rock

Occasionally, a band will lob up a hook so vigorously haunting it will revisit you at the most anomalous of times - when you're trying to perform a trivial task (tying your shoes, for example), when you find yourself staring out the window during a prolonged lecture, and when you dream. This staying power can validate a band's worth or, in some cases, the ability to annoy an unsuspecting listener.

Such was the case on "We've Been Had," one of many highlights of The Walkmen's regarded debut, "Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone."

The anthem's positively infectious appeal had a number of remarkable qualities. How could a band show such a confident presence and poise at such an early stage of its career?

The key-intro is so timeless it could have originated from the crank of an antique music box. The tracks' fade-in-to-fade-out production gave the piano a specter that was as masterful as it was haunting.

"Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone" was a head-turning debut - at times it shone brightly (the title track and "Wake Up"), occasionally it dragged, but most of all, it had potential. This brings us to The Walkmen's sophomore outing, "Bows and Arrows."

The opener, "What's In It for Me," finds The Walkmen in familiar form: reverb-drenched organs combined with an unyielding and almost Strokes-like rhythm section centering around Hamilton Leithauser's intonation, sometimes flirting with the familiar Rod Stewart bawl and other times as pre-suck Bono with a ridiculous smoking habit.

"What's In It for Me" provides the perfect leadoff, with every intention of raising the bar via the fire-ridden retribution anthem "The Rat," which finds Leithauser relaying his frustrations about an unidentified foe. Never before has Leithauser presented himself with both resentment and rage, faltering between vengeance and social inadequacy. Ultimately, the ability for Leithauser to step out of his familiar tenor into previously uncharted vocal and lyrical territory is ultimately what makes "The Rat" so unique.

The rest of "Bows and Arrows" finds The Walkmen indecisive between its more traditional studio sound (at only two LPs in, tradition seems a bit dubious) of drawn-out, momentum-building ballads and contradiction of the calculated frenzy of its live shows. "No Christmas While I'm Talking" and "Hang On Siobhan" fulfill the former quota, whereas "Little House of Savages" and "Thinking of a Dream I Had" allow them to step into their gig-playing shoes.

As The Walkmen takes bold steps toward experimentation through various means - creating small but progressive sonic landscapes like an organ-toting Jason Pierce or rhythmically stepping it up with a newfound intensity - they naturally succeed.

Perhaps "Bows and Arrows" is a premeditated, intentional attempt to evolve. Perhaps it's an effortless progression. Either way, The Walkmen is maturing.

The Walkmen will perform at the 9:30 club on Thursday, Feb. 26.

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