CD Review: "You & Me" by The Walkmen
Artist: The Walkmen
Album: You & Me
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Most bands claim to have a “sound” which usually ends up being described as a hybrid of other bands. The Walkmen are one of the few bands that sound like no one else. But that’s not the interesting thing about them, what’s unique is that within the “sound” they’ve created, they have managed to go so many places without deviating from its original integrity. It’s easy for a band to experiment, and come up with new sounds, but what The Walkmen do is entirely different.
Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone first established the heavy wall of sound. The sound was the star of the show at first, and Hamilton Leithauser was a distant crooner singing about other people with no personal stake, almost a detached observer in the back ground yelling “Wake up!” The piano dominated the album, and musicianship was the real statement by the band.
The sound was further realized and cleaned up slightly for the classic Bows + Arrows. The band released their most defining songs to date with the explosive “The Rat” and “Little House of Savages.” Leithauser was suddenly awake and pretty angry, confessing in a Dylan-esque drawl “What’s in it for me? I came here for a good time, and you’re turning me off.”
2006′s A Hundred Miles Off had many bright spots including the powerful “All Hands and the Cook,” the Cash-esque “Brandy Alexander,” and “This Job is Killing Me,” but the band seemed to lose a bit of their focus. Tracks like “Tenley-Town” didn’t work, and they seemed restless.
The guys were at Noise Pop this past spring, and while their live sets are always a must see, they really killed at the Independent that night, and they hardly played any older tracks, which usually makes for a bored audience.
The songs that resonated so well with the audience were off of You & Me, it was like the audience had lived with them for years. The band played with so much confidence and passion it was hard not to be pulled in. The new songs still exist in the framework of the sound, but the band has become so much more intimate, as the title would suggest. The album sounds absolutely amazing and feels like a classic “American” recording that exists without an expiration date. It sounds like it could have been born at the same time as rock ‘n’ roll itself, or completely contemporary. There is a patience within the album that other bands would kill for. The wall of sound that the band had incorporated as a signature is reserved when they wind up and need to break out, but every instrument is given room to breathe like never before, and Leithauser’s voice is the anchor.
“Donde Esta La Playa” starts the record with a heavy bass line before Leithauser’s voice cuts throughâ€””It’s back to the battle today, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” But what was once a distant Leithauser lyric moves into something personal and narrative and he sings in a bridge: “I’m dancing through this, this lovely wooden floor…there is still sand in my suitcase…there is still salt on my teeth…I kissed her in the window…and she covered up her face, she’s pretty and cherry…I know that your married the rings on your hand, so I didn’t stay ’til the end.”
A classic rambler in the vein of Kerouac narrates the album, and is hopeful and romantic in a way that is so different from anything the band has done to this point. By the time our rambler sings about the hopefulness of the “New Year’s Eve” we’re almost giddy “Out of the darkness and into the fire. I tell you I love you, and my hearts in the strangest place, that’s how it started. And that’s how it ends. And I know you’re with me, it’s point of pride, and it’s louder than lightning, in this room of mine.” It swells and sways so beautifullyâ€”it’s grand stuff. Easily the soundtrack for an edgy wedding, that is both beautiful and powerful, with more than a dash of grace.
- Review submitted by Jeff Bracco.