Friday, 5 September 2008
Review - The Walkmen - You & Me
A long time ago I saw The Walkmen live. In fact, it was so long ago I remember little to nothing of them. Actually, that isn’t so much true, as I saw two other bands that rainy night in Edinburgh; Idlewild were the main act, and blew me away. It was truly the epiphany that live music can be. The Walkmen preceded Idlewild and were dark, brooding, and loud. I remember a couple of their songs from the night but nothing sticks out more than the other bang, the Star Spangles, a terrible punk throwback band, who almost ruined the night for me after their interminable set.
Fast forward almost a hundred years and I have started listening to The Walkmen for the first time properly. And this album, their fifth album of dark melancholic New York rock that sounds every bit part Interpol and Strokes, is absolutely fantastic.
You & Me sounds very much a winter album. The crooning of Hamilton to the dark regress of piano and bass propelled by a thudding battery of drumming, washes over the senses and paints a bleak sparse landscape of New York. I would at this point mention 9/11, but we can probably sidestep past that whole “post-9/11” drivel by pointing out similar artists from a simpler time, such as Joy Division or The Velvet Underground. The reason why The Walkmen remind me of that is the melody hidden under a sheen of dark intonement and expression, so subtle that it takes several listens for the whole album to unravel.
I find this band in mate early 20s and they mean so much and make so much sense to me that I feel that if I had been involved with them any early I might not only became the muso that I am threatening to become, but like Pulp, I wouldn’t have understood the point of The Walkmen. They sit atop a pile of bands that are intellectual without sound pretentious, expand their musical sound without having to resort to high wage producers, and have crafted a level of album consistency only equalled in measurable success by Elbow, and this album, with tracks as dark as the opener “Donde Esta La Playa” and the rolling “Postcards from Tiny Islands”, serve as the perfect introduction to a band who seem to channel the grandeur of an age of music that is long forgotten.
This age of music that made sense, had meaning, was as successful as R&B today, is long gone but never more relevant, and The Walkmen are the best there is, and You & Me is one of the best albums this year.