It must be tough to be a band from New York City these days. So much hype, so
much glitter. And while I'm certain a whole lot of these bands are running
around trying to be the next big Strokes kinda thing, The Walkmen are
running away with the prize. As evidence, I give you their sophomore
effort, Bows and Arrows. It's an excellent album, produced by
Dave Sardy (Marilyn Manson, Red Hot Chili Peppers). It's catchy and personal
and emotional, full of tales of hope and heartbreak.
The band includes Hamilton Leithauser on vocals, Walter Martin on the organ, Matt Barrick on drums, Peter Bauer on bass, and Paul Maroon on guitar and piano. While their former bands (Jonathan Fire Eater and the Recoys) had more of a garage-y kind of feel, this is a break away from the stereotypical "new" New York sound. It's equal parts Tom Waits, The Pixies, and The Pogues, with a dash of punky bravado thrown in to liven things up just a little more.
The album opens up slowly with a little bit of noise and sorrow in "What's in It for Me" which is going to make you wonder where the rock is. But it hints at what's to come, and in retrospect, it's great to see that The Walkmen can pull off more than just a catchy riff or two. "The Rat" is next the year is young, but this song is easily one of my early favorites of 2004. When Leithauser yells "You've got a nerve to be asking a favor, you've got a nerve to be calling my number, I know, we've been through this before," I know he's right on the money. For now, he can speak for all those young men out there who've been so badly wronged. You'll need to listen to this song three more times before proceeding to the rest of the album.
While "No Christmas While I'm Talking" is ultimately skippable, "Little House
of Savages" is definitely a keeper. So is "New Year's Eve" (you
can decide for yourself if there's anything to this winter theme they have going).
It's a little bit of a dirge, but don't let that stop you from getting your groove
on. It's kind of touching and wistful, and with such lyrics as "the more we talk,
the less we understand," it's as if The Walkmen, with their sensitive and lovely
songs, could surely be the next poster boys on your favorite indie rock-worshipping
television show. Maybe a guest spot on "The O.C."? It's inevitable!
The album starts to wind down with "Thinking of a Dream I Had" a weird but catchy combination of surf sounds and keyboard crashes.
Last but not least, the title track, "Bows and Arrows." This is probably the one song that keeps bringing in comparisons to U2, but just ignore them. It's jangly, but lovely, and finishes off the album on an up note.
So, my vote's for The Walkmen. Even with a couple of missteps, this is a solid album that will likely stay in heavy rotation on your stereo for months to come. As much as I'd like to keep gushing about how great a listen this is, The Walkmen say it better than I can: "We're singing a song, we don't care if we're wrong." Take their word for it. New York City is here to stay.