Review: The Walkmen

At heart, the Walkmen are the loud and dirty rockers that Leonard Cohen always secretly wished he could be. They assault their songs with the fury of Malotov cocktails yet wrap them in a knowing intelligence and emotional touch that make comparisons to Cohen (and Dylan too) so appropriate. On Saturday, a couple of us Freakers traveled to Madison (home of the impeccable blog, Muzzle of Bees) to catch NYC’s finest band in action. Despite Old Man Winter’s attempts to keep all of us at home, the place was packed and the Walkmen were on-point.

Hard at work on a new record that has been slated for a tentative June ‘08 release, the band unveiled several new songs, all of which were promising. “I Lost You”, a song which they debuted at SXSW last March, continues to be one of the best they’ve ever written. Short, brutally energetic, and bolstered by a melodic refrain that refuses to leave my head, it is a contender for the lead-track on the band’s next album (so says the band’s singer, Hamilton Leithauser) and captures the best elements of the Walkmen’s sound; mostly because it renders quiet, crooning moments as well as the striking explosions that this band so frequently levies at audiences via roaring instruments and Leithauser’s in-tune screaming.

The band’s older material remains captivating and often times even sounds better in the live setting. They unearthed “Wake Up” from Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone (2002) while several cuts (”Thinking of a Dream I Had”, “No Christmas While I’m Talking”, “What’s in it for Me?”, and “Little House of Savages”) from 2004’s Bows + Arrows got their proper due. The deeply Dylan-esque “All Hands and the Cook” (from 2006’s A Hundred Miles Off) was also a highlight.

When the band wrapped up their set, they took off immediately for the Quad Cities, where they were booked to record a Daytrotter session the following afternoon. When we talked to the fine folks over at Daytrotter they remarked that the band recorded a set of Cohen covers for their session. How fitting!

Keep on the lookout for that Daytrotter session as well the new album in the summer. And when you get a free moment, email the band and let them know how much you’d love for them to play in Iowa City!

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