The Walkmen are the lazarus like re-emergance of NYC’s Jonathan Fire*Eater (No, I have never heard of them either. Apparently they made some big waves in New York and collapsed after a few years like flan out of the oven). They are a five piece comprising Walter Martin (Organ, Backing Vocals, Tape Loops), Paul Maroon (Guitar/Keyboards) and Matt Barrick (Drums), all ex Jonathan Fire*Eaters along with Hamilton Leithauser (Vocals) and Peter Bauer (Bass) of the Recoys.
From the background information I have got – their listed influences include U2, The Cure, Bjork, Joy Division, New Order, Bruce Springsteen and The Pogues. To me they sound very much like Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine. Where they got Bruce Springsteen or The Pogues from I can’t imagine. Still, no matter, this is a great listen. What strikes you straight away is Hamilton’s voice over the full rich and embracing backing. It’s soft and pleading, ironic and defiant and a lot like Ian Curtis or Tim Booth.
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Kicking off with They’re Winning, a short burst of what is to come, demanding attention from the start. A slow pounding beat heralds Wake Up which is oddly like Flowered Up or The Happy Mondays with its strained and curiously Mancunian inflections. From all the other reviews I have seen the title track comes highly recommended – Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone. From the first note it brings back thoughts of early New Order or late Power of Dreams . I am compelled to agree with all those other reviewers Everyone… is just brilliant.
It’s the subtle variety in this album which makes it such top listening. From the superbly titled Revenge Wears No Wristwatch could easily be mistaken for The Strokes given an old skool indie twist. For The Blizzard Of ’96 we are treated to what sounds like an eerie fairground caliope as the backdrop to sweeping vocals not unlike early James. Then from the seductive and engrosing French Vacation we have Stop Talking and We’ve Been Had leaving you with the feeling that if The Walkmen had been cursed with more pomposity and dark pretentions they could have so easily decended into Nick Cave-lite cod goth hell. However, they pull it off with charm and style. These simple tracks grow on you so quickly that you lose and doubts. There are more upbeat numbers like Roll Down The Line and That’s The Punch Line. That’s upbeat in tempo not lyrics. There is a soulful realism throughout. This isn’t a happy album, but nor does it have you reaching for those sleeping pills or razor blades. Saying that, the funeral march tone to It Should Take A While with it’s guitars chiming in like church bells laying misery upon misery onto this excellent, yet despair ridden, number could get you there if you were off that disposition. I had been struggling to make sense of the persistant U2 comparisons I had seen mention of until I heard Rue The Day. It’s intro like an air raid siren in the background before exploding with stacato piano and drums. Finally, I’m Never Bored lends itself easily to be The Cure except that fat Bob and the gang never had such restraint.
Tipped for the top by, and frequent support act to, The Strokes, French Kicks and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs amonst others. If they play like they do on this CD The Walkmen live gigs should be amazing.
Its a very 80’s indie sound with echoes shoegazing, Madchester, new wave and of past greats throughout.
Label : Star Time International (US, NYC)
Release Date : Out Now, Available on Import
Website : www.thewalkmen.com
- They’re Winning
- Wake Up
- Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
- Revenge Wears No Wristwatch
- The Blizzard Of ’96
- French Vacation
- Stop Talking
- We’ve Been Had
- Roll Down The Line
- That’s The Punch Line
- It Should Take A While
- Rue The Day
- I’m Never Bored