The Walkmen, A Hundred Miles Off (Record Collection)

Posted July 8th, 2006 by admin

The Walkmen
A Hundred Miles Off
Record Collection
By: Eric Greenwood

Not a band to embrace stagnation, New York City's The Walkmen reacts drastically to the overwhelming praise bestowed upon its second album, Bows + Arrows, with a confident step out of the murky shadows and into a brighter, more aggressive domain without sacrificing its trademark atmospheric austerity. A Hundred Miles Off opens lazily with "Louisiana", a drunken, shambolic masterpiece, which allows frontman Hamilton Leithauser's best Bob Dylan impression to explore the limits of his upper register.

The urgent intensity that made the band's breakthrough single, "The Rat", so infectious is largely (and, probably, deliberately) ignored for a less immediate, though more fulfilling undercurrent of desperation and menace. The splintery riff that opens "Danny's at the Wedding" perfectly balances Leithauser's untamed, strained growl, which makes his seemingly off-handed lyrics sound heartbreakingly poetic and sincere. The way his voice just cracks and sputters at the edges of the notes lends a gritty authenticity to his delivery, which will either annoy you or endear him to you- there's no middle ground.

This is not an easy record to absorb. The band's rough-hewn production is tinny and sonically chaotic, but underneath the surface noise lurks one of the finest records of the year.

Tags: review