Music Reviews
Bows and Arrows

The Walkmen Bows and Arrows

(Record Collection) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

This review has been slow in coming. Painfully slow, in fact. I seem to be having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that this album is good, but not great. I don't know why this has become a point of contention â€✠had I really been so millenarian in my expectations? Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone was a fantastic, if inconsistent, album that spoke of great things to come, a lovely collection of songs that drifted drunkenly between experimental rock and pop hooks with scatological abandon. Years after its release, the album still receives a semi-constant airing in my humble 3-disc changer, which is more than I can say for a lot of albums I own. And now comes Bows and Arrows, which in many ways is a step forward, just not quite the step I had hoped for.

This review has been slow in coming. Painfully slow, in fact. I seem to be having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that this album is good, but not great. I don't know why this has become a point of contention - had I really been so millenarian in my expectations?

Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone was a fantastic, if inconsistent, album that spoke of great things to come, a lovely collection of songs that drifted drunkenly between experimental rock and pop hooks with scatological abandon. Years after its release, the album still receives a semi-constant airing in my humble 3-disc changer, which is more than I can say for a lot of albums I own. And now comes Bows and Arrows, which in many ways is a step forward, just not quite the step I had hoped for.

I'm sure many people will prefer the new album. It's more focused, more consistent. It eschews the more experimental leanings of their previous work for louder guitars and lovely, strained vocals (while singer Hamilton Leithauser seems to get his fair share of comparisons to early-80s Bono, his vocals have always reminded me of an angrier, more interesting Rod Stewart). The best example of their new direction is the lead single The Rat, which sounds a bit like an angry Cure outtake, complete with a pulsating drumbeat that I assume will be played in heaven when I die. As of March 2nd, this is easily the finest song of 2004. The more raucous style carries on throughout Little House of Savages, a song detailing the paranoia of an illicit affair over Paul Maroon's gorgeously searing guitars, "Somebody's waiting for me at home/I should have known" before finally accepting the danger, the chorus ending with "Just don't come around when she gets home."

I've talked at length about the louder Walkmen, but two of the album's standout tracks are their quieter moments, album opener What's In It For Me, and the boozy valentine Hang On, Siobhan, which I often listen to on repeat for no good reason at all.

Still, these songs, even when surrounded by other quality cuts, including New Year's Eve - which will get its picture in the yearbook above the caption "Most Likely To Be Mistaken For a Song On Their First Album" - there's something a little bit unnerving about the album. Many numbers, such as the unbearably meandering No Christmas While I'm Talking, present themselves as merely background music - pleasant enough, sure, but doing little to draw the listener's attention attention. It instills the handful of amazing songs here with a bittersweet quality - they could have been surrounded by so much more.