Riding on that new garage rock train
Rising from the ashes of acclaimed New York band Jonathan Fire Eater, the Walkmen evoke memories of the Velvet Underground with this debut. The garage rock revival has been in full swing for some time now, making this album as timely as it is enigmatic.
Singer Hamilton Leithauser wails his way through these 13 tracks - and I don't mean that in the Wayne's World "dude-that-band-wails" kind of way. Leithauser actually wails. While it can be equally annoying and interesting, it fits. The dark and moody spirit that drives this band's sound is broadcast perfectly through his nasally vocals, which bring to mind how Bono might sound with his leg caught in a bear trap.
The stripped-down instrumentation plays to wonderful effect as well; indeed the percussion tracks at times sound like they were recorded totally dry at the end of a long hallway. The sparse keyboards almost could have been pecked out on a toy piano. But Paul Maroon's dark and spooky guitar performance reverberates through the songs like a ghost in an abandoned house. Maroon never screams "boo" or even rattles his chains much, yet you can't stop listening, waiting for the next somber moan from the strings. If film director Christopher Nolan had a nightmare, this album could be the soundtrack.
I'm a melody guy, so it took me a while to wade through the melody-free Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone. In fact, if you're accustomed to commercial radio fare, don't even think of buying this. But if you're on the garage rock train or you don't mind experimenting, the floating "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch" may be all it takes to reel you in. Positively chilling.
Had the Walkmen been involved in the mid-1970s punk awakening during CBGB's heyday, it's likely the band would be a household name by now -- well, for those of us who remember Television and the Bloodless Pharoahs, at least. If this revival continues, expect the Walkmen to challenge the White Stripes for leader of the pack.