This was not what I had intended for my return to review writing, but it is something that was spawned by insomnia and a strong passion for people to hear the Walkmen and just to understand how much greater they are than your favorite band. Ok, so maybe that is going a bit far, but as I sit here at 2:35 in the morning, "The Rat" blaring in my ears, I realize that it certainly isn't that
I first heard of the Walkmen from a Mitsubishi commercial oddly enough, as I am sure most of you readers have as well wheather you realize it or not. At the time I had no idea how this one band would find a certain place in my heart. As evidenced by my gushing review of the New Yorkers' debut LP Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me is Gone
, the Walkmen are a band that doesn't get the respect that they deserve. Hovering just under the mainstream radar for the last several years, they seem to be content with critical acclaim over album sales, and that in itself garners even more respect from me. There was also no sophomore slump which is always a plus.
This past year Bows + Arrows
, an album which shows a certain growth and maturity, as well as a trek into new pacings and styles in songs, was released to minimal fanfare. Minimal exposure musically means nothing though when nearly everone who hears your stuff can't get enough of it. So tonight, half asleep I am going to attempt to recreate my first listen of the greatness that is Bows + Arrows
"What's in It for Me" slowly, and I mean slowly in comparison to what is to come soon enough, gets the album rolling with lazy vocal stylings and the beautifully harmonized guitar parts as well as methodical drums. The first thing that comes into my head is "Where is the upright piano?", because everyone who has heard their debut knows that the upright piano was the glue that held that album together. It is at this point that I realize that this is not the same type of album at all.
This is made even more apparent with the intro to "The Rat". Like it got a sudden adrenaline shot to the heart, the album takes on a new more aggresive feel that has not been present in any Walkmen material to this point. The guitars and frantic drumming form a wall of noise so loud that the vocals must be yelled just to compete with them. Have no fear though, the song was definately designed and works best that way. Lines like "Can't you hear me I'm calling out your name" are repeated multiple times throughout the song, and believe me you definately can hear him loud and clear. It is at this point that I generally leave my seat to run around the room several times. I mean this song really gets the blood pumping, and it seems to be over way too soon.
Another sedative kicks in and so does "No Christmas While I'm Talking". A song that is beautiful in is dissonance. I get to daydreaming during this song as it is just wonderfully calm and collected, yet with just enough of an edge to fit nicely in the whole lazy drunken type of theme that seems to come through song after song.
As "Little House of Savages" begins it's upbeat pace, it is clear that this album has more mood swings than my mother. Single material is present throughout this album, but it is probably not as apparent on this song. This is a song that everybody should like. The angular guitars just get my blood pumping again and I am currently singing along and I am also writing about it. Oh man I'm tired.
And then there is "My Old Man". Wait? What's that? "Your a sure thing but I know I don't need this now. Your an old friend we both know I could take you out"? This is about your old man? Oh, I get it, you are drunk and just talking stupid? Am I right? What is this song? Oh, it's over, well that was just wonderful, and I am not even joking. This theoretically should be a train wreck, but it instead becomes a masterpiece.
Oh, "138th Street". My favorite song on the record. But why is that so? Let's dissect. It's the magic, it's the heart wrenching lyrics, it's the beautifully harmonized guitar. Sometimes a song just feels right and this is that song.
Next up we have a sweet uptempo song in the "North Pole". There is one thing that I gather from this song and it is that "Everybody knows". What everybody knows I am still trying to figure out, but this much I know. Vocals on this song are quite possibly the greatest thing ever in the history of things. No it's not that great, but it is pretty damn impressive. Why must this song end?
Woah, a piano finally makes an appearance, but not in a way that I expected. This one takes the leading melody rather that just background flavor. Quite possibly the most emotional song on the album, it is once again just a song to marvel at and thank the heavens that it has been made. Man, I really want to end on that note, but there are 3 more songs to do. This would have made such a nice album ender.
"New Year's Eve" has a jangly winter-time snuggly feeling to it. It is conjuring up images of Christmases past and New Year celebrations. It is amazing that such a thing can be done in a studio, yet be so powerful at bringing back memories if only for 2 minutes and 20 seconds of a song.
"Thinking of a Dream I Had" is a song that cannot be done justice in a review. A wall of instruments and a galloping drum beat pace most of the song before a small clearing yet distorted part comes in followed by sawlike guitar and angry vocals. The dreamlike synths that come in fit the song so well. Man, I think this just became my favorite. When it comes to the Walkmen the song I am listening to at the time tends to be my favorite which is a good trait for a band to have.
The album ends in style with the 5 minute "Bows and Arrows". Carefully measured, the song plods along to it's final destination, a drunken and very ungracious abrupt exit. A perfect kind of exit for this group.