Sunday, September 10, 2006

belated quickie: The Walkmen

The Walkmen, A Hundred Miles Off - As widely noted, "Louisiana" is the best song; like "The Rat," it's an ingratiating, deceptive single that bears no relation to the rest of the album. They sequence it first this time instead of second to get the punters out happy early, but it really is fantastic; on the surface, the song is just generic Americana (lyrics about road trips and drinking coffee under a canopy in New Orleans), but the Walkmen dirty it up with characteristic messy mixing, reverb-heavy guitar and Hamilton Leikhauser's increasingly Dylan-esque vocals; the completely artificial piano rolls that signal the entrance of the horns are the crowning touch. Americana has never sounded both so blatantly constructed and so right.

As for the rest: if, as Pitchfork jibes, Leikhauser's increasingly Dylan-ersatz vox means that "M Is for Mmphmblgmbn," they also can help pull some ingenious tricks. "Lost In Boston" isn't really a rhyme, but it is the way Leikhauser pronounces it. The Walkmen are still seemingly sonic engineers first and songwriters second, but the songwriting here, if anything, seems stronger than on Bows + Arrows, as if having finally figured out how to master guitar tone they finally buckled down and worked on compressing the songs. After the shock of realizing that "Louisiana" bears no relation to the rest of the album, the rest establishes a coherent tone, big on thrashing, barely repressed tension. It's hard to work up the motivation to listen to it all, but once you get into it it's solid.


Anonymous BT said...

This album should've been titled "A Hundred Miles in the Wrong Direction". Rarely does it retain the unique sound of the first two and on occasion ('Louisiana' and 'Lost in Boston', in particular), it seems to peer into its crystal ball, predicting a future when all they have going for them is his voice. I agree: It's solid. If it's any mark of their intentions, however, The Walkmen are doomed.

3:44 PM  

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