Review : The Walkmen - Heaven
Pitchfork"I was the Duke of Earl, but it couldn't last/ I was the pony express, but I ran out of gas." This is the first thing Hamilton Leithauser sighs on the Walkmen's new album, Heaven. It is a distinctly un-rock'n'roll sentiment. In fact, it sounds like the sort of thing your grandpa might say. Ten years ago, the Walkmen were a magnetic, messy young rock band, and they did all the things we expect young rock bands to do: swung in unexpectedly on friends, drunk-dialed exes, pleaded pathetically that things would get better with zero evidence that they would. But over the course of their last two albums, they began receding gracefully into sepia tone: Both You & Me and Lisbon felt like more breezy postcards from abroad than seething dispatches from here. Heaven, their gloriously pretty sixth studio record, marks the moment they shuffle off into that 4x6-sized sunset forever. The title they've chosen says it all: Look where they ended up! We all know that's not where rock bands go.
Heaven, as Talking Heads famously defined it, "is a place where nothing ever happens." For most sentient people, that sounds like the definition of hell, which Byrne's lyrics admitted: "It's hard to imagine how nothing at all/ Could be so exciting/ Could be so much fun." Similarly, it might not thrill longtime Walkmen fans to picture the band as a bunch of rumpled, beaming dads slotting recording time in between play dates. But on Heaven, they've made a bewildered, giddy paean to their own happiness. Heaven feels infectiously drunk on its own good fortune and kicks out a barstool for you to drink alongside it....full text
ContactmusicLet's face it; 'The Rat' was an undeniably astounding track. The sheer vigour was unrelenting from start to finish and it still gets mentioned today as one of last decade's musical highlights. It wasn't so much a 'My Sharona' for the band, obviously not as they are still revered and their albums are still looked forward to, but it was a song that cast a shadow over the band that has since made things very dark in the world of The Walkmen. Fortunately though, they are a band that strive in darkness and have yet to release a dud album; if anything, they have continually improved album after album (we're still waiting for a song that's better than 'The Rat', however).
On 2010's Lisbon, it was as if the band had finally found the sound that would clearly define them post-angry young man Bow and Arrows (and thus 'The Rat') era. They are now sardonic older gentlemen, sipping glasses of red wine with the likes of The National and a less irritating David Cross and making music that they wouldn't have dreamt of ten years ago.
A ripening has unfolded on the band, what is the most refreshing thing a band who have survived as long as the Walkmen can do is adjust themselves so they will continually be relevant to listen to. 'We Can't Be Beat' opens the album with an exemplary display of how to successfully pull off the newly fashionable art of harmonising. The timid guitar picks usher in the album with an eerie quiet, Hamilton Leithause's vocals and the lulling harmonies that creep up behind it draw you even further in and, whilst you may think you've accidentally picked up a barbershop album by a shanty troupe, you don't stop to think about it once....full text
BbcHow you feel about listening to the sound of a band "maturing" is inextricably tied up with whether or not you believe that rock'n'roll is at its best when the preserve of the snarling, chaotic and hungry young.
The Walkmen have been around for over a decade now – so youth isn’t quite on their side these days. But so lauded are they that the quintet could release a cloud of smoke and it would receive gushing reviews from a cluster of critics. But the New Yorkers’ seventh studio effort is a glossy record that will speak to more important people than writers with established preconceptions – and it may well speak to them quite profoundly.
There are some wonderful moments for sure: The Love You Love, to pick one immediate highlight, is a doozie. As vocalist Hamilton Leithauser wails, “Baby it's the love, the love – not me,” the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It's a thrilling three minutes in the mould of The Walkmen circa 2002, reminding the listener of those dog days when the band, and all the rest of us too, were a lot younger....full text
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