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The Walkmen: Lisbon

by on September 16, 2010

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The Walkmen have always been known for their sound. It is a little Bob Dylan, a little surfer rock, and a lot indie. Each instrument seems to be so perfectly miked, but at the same time so raw. Every little mistake, fret noise and scratch can be heard on the guitar track. Every quiver in singer Hamilton Leithhauser’s voice is present, and every off-beat drum hit is left in. This defining quality stays true in the Walkmen’s latest album, Lisbon.

Full of hard-rocking tunes, and some softer-rocking tunes, there is a little something for everyone. But the question still stands, why exactly would the band be such sticklers about leaving these aforementioned “mistakes” in? Well, for starters, they add an enormous amount to the angst-filled songs that appear across the Walkmen’s four previous studio albums (“Pussy Cats” was a cover album). Take for example, the song “Bows + Arrows” off of 2004’s Bows + Arrows. With an only slightly overdriven guitar, it is easy to pick out parts where guitarist Paul Maroon misses notes of a chord and even hits wrong ones. Now jump forward to the song “Victory” off of Lisbon. The same concept still applies. Only this time, the guitar sounds slightly more reverberated. This is another common theme throughout the album.

Whereas previous Walkmen albums were mostly comprised of songs that had soft verses and screaming choruses, Lisbon is, for the most part, made up of two distinct types of songs: loud and soft. There are songs that stay loud and pumping through their entirety (“Angela Surf City”), and songs that stay soft throughout (“Stranded”, “Woe is Me”). The loud songs are mostly surf-rock style tunes. They have heavily reverberated guitar, a little bit of vibrato, and of course some distortion. The softer tunes feature slightly overdriven guitar, just enough to make the listener feel a little on edge. This tension complements Leithauser’s voice perfectly. It’s raunchy and gritty, the perfect voice for this band. However, the one-sidedness of some of the songs just cannot compare to the tunes that established the Walkmen as a band with enormous potential.

So while there are no songs like “The Rat” on this album (the closest is “Angela Surf City”), the album moves in interesting directions, featuring horns on “Stranded” and strings on multiple tracks, most notably “Blue as Your Blood”. If you are a Walkmen fan, then you probably have this album already, but if not, it’s definitely worth a listen. It’s not up to par with the classic Bows + Arrows, but the Walkmen, for the most part, have stuck to their basic formula. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


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