The Walkmen rose from the ashes of two garage rock bands, Jonathan Fire Eater and the Recoys, and formed in New York, New York in 2000. This is a very close-knit band, as the members grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and have played with each other in the same bands since the fifth grade. As if they couldn't get any closer, two of the band members (Martin and Leithauser) are actually cousins.
The Walkmen intentionally change their sound to move away from their garage rock roots. They are one of the few bands that uses an upright piano, and boy what a defining feel it gives to their songs. They also experiment with various instrumentation and recording techniques. Their influences are a who's who of 70's and 80's post-punk and alternative, deriving their sound from such bands as Joy Division, The Cure, The Pixies, The Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, The Smiths, and Television.
Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
is the full length debut for the Walkmen, and was critically acclaimed despite staying mostly within indie circles. They are known by many as "the band from that car commercial", as their single "We've Been Had" was the theme for Mitsubishi for a while. That song, oddly enough isn't even one of the stronger songs on this great album.
Depite the obvious attempt to get away from a garage rock feel, the songs are still driven by dark, raw guitar riffs, and with some lovely piano parts intertwined with them. This is a very gritty album, similar in that right to their New York City counterparts Interpol and Radio 4.
Since the release of Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
, The Walkmen have gone on a world tour, and recently (this year) released their sophomore effort Bows & Arrows
(which I will likely review). The new album is more polished, but lacks that freshness of their debut.
Hamilton Leithauser - Guitar, Vocals
Paul Maroon - Guitar, Piano
Walter Martin - Organ, Tapes
Matt Barrick - Drums
Peter Bauer - Bass
Kirsten McCord - Strings
This song starts off with a repeating distant grungy guitar riff, then the distinct upright piano comes in plucking away at keys seemingly at random. The drums come in banging away. One of the most identifiable voices in music then comes in lazily, and the song melts into one odd hosh-posh of sounds that may have been thrown together on a whim. The lackidasical singing fits nicely with the mood of the song. Did he just wake up" A great opener. "Haven't we met before" Under brighter skies I......................" The part right near the end is the highlight when the guitar backs off and he sings "anyway that's fine...we're walking through an...unfamiliar scene...we're choking on it..."
Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
This song is slow to develop as what sounds like an organ slowly fades in. Then there is the sound of cymbals and finally drums to go along with the droning organ. After a minute or so the song has faded in and some falsetto vocals come in. This is a more uptempo song than the previous one. There seems to be more focus, which is a good thing for the type of song that it is. The highlight is when he sings the chorus of "I made the best of it."
Revenge Wears No Wristwatch
This song starts with a grity guitar riff repeated. As expected drums come in shortly after. The sustained notes from the organ fit nicely. The way he sings the lyrics are again in a lazy type of way. It seems like the lyrics don't fit the emotion of the song. "I've had it up to here". So" If this is him upset, I would love to hear him calm. Anyway, the song progresses nicely. Right after the chorus there is a instrumental section where the guitar switches things up a bit. After the second verse the drums all the sudden lose the cymbals and switch timings, but it all meshs beautifully. This is my favorite song on the album.
A high shimmering guitar riff characterizes this song. It is a bit distorted and there is some drone. The change up in the high guitar after the first line of vocals is beautiful and one of the highlights on the album. There are some arpeggios as the vocals end, then there is a short guitar solo where the beautiful guitar riff takes center stage. This is actually a song that could be straight out of a 60's or 70's film about the streets of New York. It just has that sort of grity, dirty feel to it (see album cover). I really love this song.
We've Been Had
This is the song that most people have heard as it is the single and was featured in that car commercial. It isn't one of my favorites on the album, but deserves mention because many people like it. It has a different feel from the rest of the album. There is a repeating clean piano that fades in. Vocals are "I'm a modern guy...I don't care much for go-go...or the retro...image I see so...often telling me to keep...trying and maybe you'll get here...someday." The shimmering piano is joined by what could be organ or guitar with effects. Not that this is a bad song, but it is more poppy than the rest of the album. I do like the part where he sings "see me age 19 with some dumb haircut from 1950". You will probably like this song because it's hard to dislike, but don't get the idea that this is typical Walkmen.
Recommended for fans of:
The French Kicks
I'm not going to lie to you and say that I just put on this album and it was the greatest thing. The style, particularly on the vocals, takes some getting used to, but after a couple listens this album is like nicotine. I try to give this a spin at least once every couple of weeks because it is just a very solid debut album from a band that is growing into one of my favorites.