RECORD REVIEW: THE WALKMEN – HEAVEN

RECORD REVIEW: THE WALKMEN – HEAVEN
Since their beginnings ten years ago, The Walkmen have followed a course many bands would be envious of. A big sound, a good time, and a massive future. Heaven is their seventh studio LP, out via Fat Possum / Bella Union, following on from the excellent 2010 album Lisbon. Produced by Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Modest Mouse), the sound and vibe found on Heaven is that of an aged ten year old Cab Sav, subtle yet full flavoured, capable of being front and centre in the spotlight but not self centred and full of ego, devoid of hype.

Frontman, Hamilton Leithauser harnesses it all together, keeping a tight reign over the album full of two chord bass lines and laid back guitar. Heaven has moments of belting vocals and beautiful contemplation over its arc of thirteen tracks. It is a positive, happy record, one made by a group of guys who are in a good place, and it shines through right there on the vinyl. ‘We Can’t Be Beat’  starts things off and ponders the isolation of perfectionism, with help on harmonies from Fleet Foxes Robin Pecknold. It’s a song that starts with aching acoustic guitar and develops into a fully fledged marching band rally cry.

‘Love Is Luck’ dwells on the aspects of chance and luck in relationships, (which is really how it usually works) but sounds upbeat, almost calypso. ‘Heartbreaker’ features classic riffs the band has been known for as we hear Leithauser sing “I’m not your heartbreaker / these are the good years / the best we’ll ever know”, these words have never been truer for this group of five guys. The term ‘content’ comes to mind, but not defined as so many cynics would have it in a lazy, ‘that’s it, our time is over’ kind of way. They might be one of the first indie rock bands to feature a group photo of themselves posing with their collection of seven children, but hey, why not? And good on them. It might be cheesy but who cares.

‘Southern Heart’; “tell me again how you loved all the men you were after” highlights the charismatic delivery of Leithauser and intelligent orchestration of Moroon, Martin, Barrick and Bauer on their respective instruments. Sparse when it needs to be and full throttled when called for, it is clear they are at the top of their craft. ‘Song For Leigh’ was written for Leitauser’s (and possibly all of their) children, a fine present to give and look back on in future years. The value of being surrounded by such awesome music during those formative years is gold, lucky kids indeed.

‘Jerry Jr.’s Tune’ is a short ninety second instrumental track that tends towards the classification of “golden oldie”, while ‘Heaven’, the title track is a driving and sentimental number, catchy as hell. “Don’t leave me now / my best friend / remember remember / all we fight for”, Leithauser croons retrospectively, summing up the whole album in a lyric. ‘No One Ever Sleeps, with its gorgeous mariachi horn sound and echoed percussion, is a standout track. The LP Heaven is a logical conclusion for a great band like this, and with their staying power after a decade The Walkmen have cemented their place as pioneering indie band of our time. The proof is in the fact that they are still here, sounding better than ever, while most of their contemporaries there with them at the start have faded away. The golden age of The Walkmen is only just begnning.

Dave Roberts – August 19, 2012

Heaven

The Walkmen (USA)
From the album, Heaven’, Fat Possum / Bella Union

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