of Maine

The Walkmen, You & Me
September 2, 2008, 8:39 am
Filed under: Hasty Music Reviews | Tags: , , ,

The best thing about the new Walkmen album is that it reminds you why you liked the band in the first place. This is no damning with faint praise. 2002/3 was a big season for me and indie rock – Spoon, Broken Social Scene, and the Walkmen were a trifecta that dominated my ears for some time. While they all continue to satisfy – BSS in the splintering but still putting out good material sense – they’ve also all been getting a little… schticky. The Walkmen’s last album, A Hundred Miles Off, wasn’t a total bust (opener “Louisiana” has grown on me a lot), but it seemed fundamentally misguided, a growth not even the band seemed interested in. It was easygoing, except when it was angry. Hamilton Leithauser’s voice was too high in the mix; he sounded sick rather than pained or jaded. Too many keys, too much maraca, not enough bass, etc.

You & Me lacks the primal, drunken-stumble haymakers of the band’s first two albums, but it’s a much more successful attempt at “growing up” than A Hundred Miles Off. Leithauser hasn’t been praised much as a songwriter until now, but all the acclaim heaped on his clarity here is well deserved. He’s imaginative (“The skyline is swinging/Rocking back and forth”), wry (“And I know you’re with me/It’s a point of pride”), and direct and poignant (“My eyes are so sore”). Matt Barrick is back to being a smart and occasionally thrashing drummer, ditto Peter Bauer on bass. The album’s short on standout tracks (“In the New Year” begs for it a little too much, though late in the album “I Lost You” makes a strong impression) but even shorter on weak ones; You & Me is a very good, possibly great Walkmen album because it’s not much more or less than an album of quintessential Walkmen songs.

And man, that could not read much more like a cliche, but it’s not that often you get to say that and be happy about it, or even kind of blown away by it. Happy to eat my recently-unkind words about these guys, for sure.

Up next, the long awaited hasty Women review, and once I see the season 2 premiere, some thoughts on Gossip Girl. Yikes.

In the meantime, I know a number of locals who are into shape note singing, which I will opt out of defining until I watch this documentary, Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp, that Pitchfork.tv is featuring through Friday. It’s a legitimate film intended for screenings elsewhere, so don’t be put off by its temporary home.

And at of Maine headquarters, we’re in the early planning stages of a baby shower for Sarah Palin’s daughter. She’s registered at Baby Gap, shoot me an email for details.


2 Comments so far
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Anxiously awaiting your review of Gossip Girl. Interested in how you attempt to make your thoughts on this show NOT sound creepy.

Comment by Rachel

Meanwhile I’m hoping you enjoy Awake My Soul.

Comment by nbmandel

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