It hit me about halfway through my first listen of the new album by The Walkmen: The singer sounds a lot like Billy Squier. You know who I'm talking about, right? He sang "The Stroke" and "Everybody Wants You" and danced around a New York-looking apartment in a low-cut pink tanktop in this totally awesome early-'80s video. At that point, my Walkmen listening experience was ruined for me.
I know they're one of those bands that I'm supposed to like because they're from New York City and blew up along with Interpol and The Strokes and probably three dozen other bands I'm forgetting at the dawn of indie rock's emergence from the underground to what is now basically the mainstream. But it's been difficult because of the whole Billy Squier thing.
I generally like The Walkmen musical aesthetic -- a very true and exposed sound, one that allows the listener to envision these four guys in the studio or their rehearsal space playing the songs and effortlessly re-creating the sound you hear on the record. Not a lot of bands can pull that off or would even dare trying, especially in this age of digital recordings.
I also like the way the band employs American musical idioms (a country guitar line, surf beat, a doo-wop chord progression) in ways that defy conventional. And once in a while, they work up a head of steam, but overall this is one of the longest 45-minute records of the year. The much-heralded musical tension that The Walkmen is famous for? I'm not hearing it too often. In fact, after highly anticipating listening to this record, I was surprised how tired these guys sound.
I like their breakout song "The Rat." Is it okay if I just remember The Walkmen for that?
Best song: "All My Great Designs" Rotation: Medium-low Deja vu: Francois Truffaut's Jules Et Jim. I felt as though I were supposed to like that too. But I didn't. I'd rather listen to: Jonathan Fire-Eater Grade: C
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.