Monday, 20 September 2010

The Walkmen - Lisbon (Bella Union)

Back in 2004, The Walkmen were at the height of success. After releasing the critically acclaimed ‘Bows and Arrows’, they played on Fox’s teen hit show ‘The OC’, catapulting them into America’s teen consciousness. Not only that, but in the show itself, loveably materialistic ‘Summer’ [played by Rachel Bilson], refers to them as her ‘favourite band’. High praise indeed.

Now, without the aid of any more OC appearances [another show bites the dust], The Walkmen release Lisbon. The impressive thing about this record [and the band in general] is its anthemic quality, achieved not through a pounding bass drum, but through beautifully entwined melodies and longing vocals.

Album opener Juvenile, is as raw as I have ever heard the band, but this rawness never teeters into garage rock. Instead, it cements what The Walkmen are really good at; infusing grimy, vintage sounds with slight, melodic guitar hooks to create they’re unique brand of ‘pop’. What really stands out is how reflective the album is. Songs romanticize youth and young love; there is a sense of coming-of-age, told not in present tense, but through the warm haze of distant memories.

The album carefully varies slower, more contemplative tracks [Stranded]; with faster, occasionally joyous efforts [Angela Surf City’s climax is noisy and strangely uplifting]. Instrumentally, the bass lines are slick, but subtle, whilst their trademark organ is haunting and atmospheric. Much like their NYC peers, Interpol and to a lesser extent The Arcade Fire, The Walkmen’s gloom is rich in texture; I would personally like to see them play a show in a candle-lit chapel, where their sound would organically resonate.

Lisbon is not a radical departure, nor is it even a real progression. Sticking to formula is definitely frowned upon these days, but it has worked for so many bands in the past [The White Stripes first four albums spring to mind]. Breaking no new ground, but furthering and strengthening their sound; Lisbon is a sensual, enjoyable experience; but would Summer approve?

Words : David Campion

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