Song, by Toad

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The Walkmen – Heaven

 You know, until I sat down to listen really closely and actually review it, I really thought this was a downright boring album.  I love the Walkmen, and a lot of friends of mine love them too, so this indifference felt like something I was going to have to excuse or explain at some point, even if only to myself.

Listening to the album a little more closely, however, there’s a lot more there than I first suspected. I am not sure it really recommends an album to point out that it rather lacks immediacy, but we all have our favourite slow burners.

From the intensity of Bows + Arrows, The Walkmen seem to have been on a long process of smoothing out their sound; of ratcheting back the howls of rage to the point that they almost turned into a rather dapper indie version of the lounge crooner.  There is certainly that kind of arched-eyebrow sexiness to their music, between Leithauser’s unhurried vocal and the gorgeous, laid back guitar sound.

There are times when it just sounds like they have mellowed to the point of having lost their edge, but then songs like the utterly gorgeous Line By Line arrive, and eventually Jerry Jr.’s Tune and No-one Ever Sleeps and it’s clear that rather than settling for a nice sound, now firmly established, they are now simply pushing themselves in slightly different directions.

Opener We Can’t Be Beat seems to signpost this, starting almost entirely a capella, and even at its fullest relying on little more than a steady kick drum beat and a simple guitar line.  Love is Luck, which follows it, however, joins a lot of the songs on this album in territory which we have heard an awful lot from The Walkmen over the years, from the second half of You & Me, to most of Lisbon and now this.

It’s a cracking tune, of course, and in isolation I really like it.  But when you listen to an album where a lot of the music sits in this sort of rough ‘aye, okay, but we already know you can do this’ area then, as much as you like it, it can be difficult to generate any real excitement about the record as a whole. And that’s the problem with Heaven for me.  It’s really good, and there’s loads of stuff here I really like, but it’s a little bit too familiar for me to feel any real thrill listening to it.  Shame.

The Walkmen – Line By Line

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The Walkmen – The Love You Love

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10 witty ripostes to The Walkmen – Heaven

  1. avatar

    Agreed. Biggest disappointment of the year.

  2. avatar
    rampant chutney consumerism

    he didn’t say that!

  3. avatar

    I didn’t say that. There’s a lot of great stuff on here, just as an album I find myself rather unexcited.

  4. avatar

    I know. You’re assuming I’m just calling it shit, which I wasn’t meaning.

    It’s just not as good as I’d hoped. It’s not exciting as a whole. Hence ‘agreed’. Which is why it’s such a big disappointment.

  5. avatar

    Aye, I suppose so, although I kind of feared this might happen so I was sort of prepared for it in advance.

  6. avatar

    It would be fine if it didn’t kind of get your hopes up in parts. ‘Oh, oh, it might actually get good’. Only to fall kinda flat again.

    By the end I was just kind of left feeling a wee bit hollow, cheated.

  7. avatar

    You’re starting to sound a bit like a beaten wife now, Ian. Dry your eyes!

  8. avatar

    i can’t say i am a fan, but i wanted to know what this album sounded like. i listened just once and while i always get back to first-time listens, it just didn;t happen with this one. at the end, the only track that was left was “we can’t be beat”.

  9. avatar

    I kind of had that problem. First few times through in particular absolutely nothing stuck at all.

  10. avatar

    I’m gonna have to disagree, this is one of my favourites this year. I think they’re one of the most consistently excellent bands around, they’ve totally nailed their sound and just keep churning out excellent records.

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