Reviews

Bows And Arrows – The Walkmen

Label: Record Collection

There’ll be those of us, of course, who’ll try to squeeze The Walkmen somewhere between The Strokes (ludicrous, although both bands are from New York), U2 (scandalous), Joy Division (close) and Interpol (sorry, but no cigar). And even fans and critics alike have described them as having the sound of two different bands. So I’ll have to agree with the press release on this occasion, as it really is a fair assessment to say that they sound like nothing you’ve ever really come across before.

The same grainy, sepia artiness that graced their well received debut, ‘Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone’ prevails on this album and again, Hamilton Leithauser, Paul Maroon and Walter Martin provide a shouty, visceral skill and prettiness to counter the anarchy and pandemonium of rhythm section, Barrick and Bauer. That much is the same. Only this time it’s considerably louder.

That The Walkmen are subversive and unruly should be taken as given, as there’s very little lipservice paid to either musical convention or to fashion on either release and the only other sound that can be heard above the obstreperous din of Leithauser’s vocals and the clatter of Barrick’s drumming is the sound of the band pushing wildly against the grain. The otherside of the coin is that their songs are also unsually tender and self-assured. For every unapologetically freeform ‘No Christmas While I’m Talking’ and ‘North Pole’ there’s a warm feathery pillow of ‘Hang On, Siobhan’ and ‘New Year’s Eve’s to fall back and sink into. It’s never an easy listen, and only ‘The Rat’ could ever claim to approach anything like the mainstream, but it’s a deep and unlikely worm-farm of hypnotic melodies and grey-matter (and the frightfully inspired piano and organ tinkerings steal the show all over again, I’m afraid – complete with Brian Wilson and Joe Meek oddball signatures, of course).

It’s unlikely to win them any more fans than the band has fostered already, just as it’s unlikely to quell the distress of people who mistakenly buy it based on the misconception that it’s anything like The Rapture or The Strokes. But for this alone, it has to be considered priceless.

Worth listening for the raspy, thrashing vocals of Leithauser alone, which is a little like listening to immoderate cries of an angel fighting to be heard above the noise and the haste of the city.

Excellent if only for still daring to be different.

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Release: The Walkmen - Bows And Arrows
Review by:
Released: 20 March 2004