The Walkmen – Lisbon

Rating: ★★★★½

Honestly, one of the best known songs from The Walkmen is “The Rat,” and it seems that many of us have waited for the band to replicate such powerful tracks for the duration of several albums. But, while we’ve had our issues, Hamilton and his posse have slowly began to focus on recreating nothing, simply pushing ahead whilst writing some of the moving records; Lisbon is just another killer notch in the proverbial belt.

A rolling drum beat lightly kicks off “Juveniles,” giving the listener a bit of a slow-sway before the twangy guitars unite with Hamilton’s vocal appearance.  It’s amazing how great his voice sounds nowadays, when it used to be the one disposable aspect in the group’s repertoire. His control as he changes pitches and tones from note to note let’s us all know that he’s in control; so be it good sir.  You’ll find a similar drum roll entrance on “Angela Surf City,” but the band spends the first minute building tension, just before exploding upon us.  The drums sounds like well-crafted gunfire, and the guitars chug along in unison.  Still, there’s a light touch in the moments where the track rests, due mostly to Hamilton’s now credible vocal display.  If you’re not in love with Lisbon already, you’re already behind, so start over.

There’s a darkness bred by the guitar lines at the opening seconds of “Blue as Your Blood.”  You get the sense that your traveling down a dark highway through some desert valley, and the wind blowing in your hair is Leithauser’s voice.  String arrangements arise in the background, giving an extra depth to your night drive.  While it’s musical tone is a touch haunting, there’s a warmth to everything within this number. You’ve driven all the way to “Stranded,” which has an echo of a sad funeral march, implied by the horns. Yet, as Hamilton exclaims that “I’m the bigger man here,” you get the feeling that despite trials and tribulations, he’s not sitting around reflecting on it all; he’s ready to go forth.  After such emotion, The Walkmen take it upon themselves to brighten the mood with “Victory.”  The guitars alone are some of the brightest you’ll find on the record, crisp and clear, giving us all hope.  This is our victory too, so enjoy the rise and fall, especially the rise; those guitars and crashing cymbals just clear everything out of the way.

In the past, we might have searched for the powerful moments to erupt for the group, but they’ve spent so much time crafting their sound over the years, that when they slow it down, you put your ear to the speaker, hoping to grasp every last sonic stroke. “Torch Song” and “Lisbon” have a bit of studio tinkering in their background, but the emotive quality in Leithauser’s voice on each song provides us with a final moment to contemplate every word, every change in pace, every single track.  You’ll arrive at the end, a bit slower than how you got here, but dammit if you won’t have enjoyed everything about the latest travels with The Walkmen.  Honestly, most people should struggle to find anything wrong with this record, making Lisbon one of the most complete, and gorgeous, records of 2010.  Press play, and listen again and again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/The-Walkmen-Stranded.mp3]

Download: The Walkmen – Stranded [MP3]

2 comments

  • It’s “The Rat” with one T. The Walkmen did not make a song as a tribute to the 80’s hair metal band Ratt.

    Just thought I’d let y’all know. Greetings from a fellow Austinite blogger!

    -Ryan

  • Nice review Wally. I’m excited about picking this record up tomorrow.

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