walkmen lisbon


Fat Possum/Bella Union

Buy out single is an example of how the band have grown and learnt to experiment with their approach, (witness the third track ‘Follow The Leader’ for another example of a penchant for risk taking). The heartfelt and sentimental horns blare as if channeling the beginning of a New Orleans funeral march or a Mexican equivalent as Leithauser laments about not being able to get his shit together; ‘laid my plans so carelessly…drunk and lonely to the end’.

As per usual, given The Walkmen’s prediliction for penning odes about disappointment and regret, ‘Victory’ as you’d expect is a song about just the opposite, losing. But just as ever, they always seem to be able to dress up lyrical sorrow in musical splendour. Indeed, even more so the musical vibe that comes off fast paced cracker ‘Woe Is Me’ belies it’s maudlin title and lyrical content. Maroon even gives a nod to the no-wave tropicalia trend doing the rounds at present.

‘Torch Song’ owes a great deal to crooners that drove the popular ballads of the 50’s while the slow waltz of ‘While I Shovel The Snow’, with its minimal instrumentation allows fully for Leithauser’s commanding vocals to shine and allows us to fully comprehend and appreciate his contentment with his own inertia;
‘half of my life I’ve been watching, half of my life I’ve been waking up, birds in the sky could warn me, there’s no life like the snow life, so for now I’ll take my time, for now I can’t be bothered….’ The title track seemingly transports you to a rooftop scene on a moonlit night gazing across its namesakes Tagus River as meticulously plucked guitar swoons and serenades.

Unlike the lyrical content of the track in question, but certainly in keeping with its title, Lisbon heralds another victory for The Walkmen. While its certainly no revolution it is certainly an evolution. Their preference for incrementalism in terms of musical development maintains that ever present consistency aforementioned in this review. Rather than rocking foundations, there is innovation, but also reinforcement and that is how Lisbon should be approached. But one thing is certain, their ability to be inclusive of time and genre without spreading themselves thin is indicative of an outstanding band at the top of their game. Lisbon, borrowing and transforming as it does, is quite simply a modern day gem.

James Stocker – September 18, 2010.