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
The Walkmen – The Love You Love

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