Review: The Walkmen – Heaven
Published on June 22nd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Their seventh studio album since 2002 debut Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, Heaven sees The Walkmen more or less carrying on from where likes of “Juveniles” and “Follow the Leader” left off on 2010 LP Lisbon.
Hamilton Leithauser’s vaguely Ian McCullogh-like voice sounds great set to a warm, glowing production by Phil Ek [Built to Spill/Modest Mouse], decorating chiming, wistfully acoustic opener “We Can’t Be Beat” with sweet lyrical vignettes such as “I was the Pony Express, but I ran out of gas” and “Give me a life that needs correction / Nobody loves perfection”.
“Love is Luck” veers unnervingly close to latter-day U2 in places, but “Heartbreaker” drags Heaven quite unexpectedly into a different direction with a sudden outbreak of swathes of speed-picked electric guitars that carries it all, as if on a wave, into somewhere thrillingly unusual. Suddenly, the driving guitars atop pounding Motown beat of the first half of “Heartbreaker” seem like a mere decoy with all its calling cards of modern rock production and arrangement.
“The Witch” with its syncopated blasts of organ is strangely staggering, like a workmanlike indie song blindfolded and span around ten times, while “Line By Line” ascends from sparsely intense fingerpicking into splendour on a flying carpet of string (as in orchestration, that is, not actual string).
Leithauser gives an especially impassioned performance on “Song For Leigh” (sample lyric: “I sing myself sick about you”), a sweet, jangly strum that occasionally pounds itself into a mini-swarm, before “Nightingales” goes on to remind of Pulp classic “Sorted for E’s and Wizz” by bearing a blissful breakdown that repeats itself as some sort of perverse chorus.
“Don’t trust the fact, just the fiction” we are implored on the soaring, fast-paced “The Love You Love”, and the spellbinding nocturnal feel conjured by the twinkly arpeggios of “No One Ever Sleeps” and the magnificently ringing guitar couplets of “Dreamboat” (“Your sympathy’s not wasted on me / I left you a million times”) make for a beautiful close to the album after a bit of a lull.
The pervading solemnity of Heaven can get a touch wearying, but more often than not it’s too gorgeous to pall.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Heaven is out now on Bella Union. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit thewalkmen.com