Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

The Walkmen, "You & Me" (Gigantic) [1.5 out of 4 stars]

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Having done its version of one of the most famous "lost weekend" albums in rock history--the Walkmen recorded a track-for-track remake of Harry Nilsson and John Lennon's 1974 album "Pussycats" in 2006--the much-hyped indie-rock band now gives us its morning-after hangover record. And, as might be expected, it's nowhere near as much fun.

Formed from the ashes of former emo hypes Jonathan Fire Eater and arriving amidst the New York rock renaissance of the early 2000's, the Walkmen have never risen above their status as an inferior substitute for the Strokes, though their many critical boosters beg to differ. Where the Strokes are all about propulsion and the Velvet Underground at its most intense, the Walkmen traffic in songwriterly pretensions and a sound that evokes Tom Waits jamming with the Velvets circa their hazy and somnambulant third album--not necessarily a bad idea, if well-executed, but singer Hamilton Leithauser and his bandmates never rise to the challenge.

A concept album of sorts, the group's fourth proper disc chronicles both the end of a long series of travels and the unwinding--or perhaps settling in--of a troubled but committed relationship. As studio touches such as piano, organ, exotic percussion and whistling attempt to decorate the basic and at times folkie drones, Leithauser croons about a vacation gone wrong in "Donde Esta La Playa" ("There is still sand in my suitcase/There is still salt in my teeth"), jots off "Postcards from Tiny Islands" and, drawing on a slightly less exotic locale, yearns for a "Canadian Girl." Yet the soggy melodies, leaden rhythms and overwrought vocals assure that none of these songs ever take flight, and when the musicians ponder "Seven Years Of Holidays," you can't help but agree with them: "These wild nights are no fun."

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Just curious, Jim, did the fact that Pitchfork stamped its almighty seal of approval on this album prompt this surprisingly harsh review?
By no means am I a P-Fork hipster disciple (I can't even grow a neck bbeard!) but the Walkmen are one of my favorite rock bands so I feel the need to defend them.

After perhaps a half-dozen listens, I have not yet formed a complete opinion on You & Me. In comparison to the last two Walkmen albums, this one is significantly more low-key, both in tempo and in sentiment. While it may be "no fun" to you, You & Me marks a significant step forward in the evolution of the band's sound. I'm sure this was a conscious choice by Ham Leithauser & Co., and I respect the fact that they did not churn out an album full of scorchers like "The Rat" & "Thinking of A Dream I Had" (though they could do so in they're sleep, I'm sure).

While Ham continues to wear Bob Dylan's influence (or idolatry) on the frayed sleeve of his vintage wool houndstooth sportcoat, the band's love of '60's & '70's rock & pop is further explored and refined on this album. It may not always be "fun," but in my opinion, it is more thoughtful, well-crafted music by a band with one of the most unique and identifiable sounds in rock music today.

While I disagree with this review, Jim, I respect the work you do and absolutely love Sound Opinions. Keep it up!

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on August 27, 2008 3:51 PM.

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