Containing three former members of much-lamented New York buzz band Jonathan Fire Eater, who self-destructed before striking gold, the Walkmen seem determined not to repeat past mistakes. They marked their return with an u... more »nassuming self-titled EP and spent a meandering year on the club circuit before properly breaking this, their first full-length album, with a song loaned out to a car commercial. "Sometimes I'm just happy I'm older," sings Hamilton Leithasuer over the rolling, toy piano melody of "We've Been Had." While on the brittle, angular "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch," he whines, "I've heard it all before / I've had it up to here." But for all the dashed expectations and lingering regret, the Walkmen still look unblinkingly forward. The music here is intense and inventive, combining garage rock, cabaret pomp, and carnival melodies, while still sounding oddly tuneful. Fans of U2 and the Cure should investigate the Walkmen. --Aidin Vaziri« less
Containing three former members of much-lamented New York buzz band Jonathan Fire Eater, who self-destructed before striking gold, the Walkmen seem determined not to repeat past mistakes. They marked their return with an unassuming self-titled EP and spent a meandering year on the club circuit before properly breaking this, their first full-length album, with a song loaned out to a car commercial. "Sometimes I'm just happy I'm older," sings Hamilton Leithasuer over the rolling, toy piano melody of "We've Been Had." While on the brittle, angular "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch," he whines, "I've heard it all before / I've had it up to here." But for all the dashed expectations and lingering regret, the Walkmen still look unblinkingly forward. The music here is intense and inventive, combining garage rock, cabaret pomp, and carnival melodies, while still sounding oddly tuneful. Fans of U2 and the Cure should investigate the Walkmen. --Aidin Vaziri
"At a time when the rock mainstream seems to value uninteresting, derivative, "catchy" material, all style, no substance, The Walkmen arrive to provide a healthy alternative. With their focus apparently on diversity (of sound, of instrumentation, of mood), they manage to create an album notable for the individuality of its every track. They can write simple, accessible rock songs (as evidenced by "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch"), but The Walkmen strive to do more- and succeed. The title track initially rumbles and then bursts into a subtle acceleration that swoops down and picks you up without your even noticing. "We've Been Had" offers one of the catchiest melodies in recent memory, and, coupled with smart lyrics, provides what I consider the best song of the year thus far. The surprising ballad, "Stop Talking," proves that a rock record can slow its tempo down and still maintain its intensity. There are too many good songs on this album to describe in 1000 words or less. You'll just have to check out "Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone" on your own."
"The buzz on this record has been released upon us like a cloud of Prada-clad insects: the Walkmen have been on MTV all week, and the Village Voice has instructed me to consider them my "favorite new band." Formed two years ago with members of Jonathan Fire*eater and the Recoys, they already sound like they've been making the rounds for years and are eyeing some arena dates. In fact, they're thinking so big that they're already worried that Sony could sue them over their bandname.And I don't see anything wrong with that. It's actually refreshing to hear a new band that seems so confident. It's not that they sound commercial-- yet-- but that they remind us that "pop" stands for popular. From the start of Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, their first full-length, they aim high: the two minute warm-up of "They're Winning" comes throbbing from the ether like a machine revving to life; and on "Warm Up" that machine is taking bold strides-- the guitar attack, the brutish drums, and Hamilton Leithauser's showmanlike vocals rage in unison. Leithauser is being compared to other rock vocalists, and as one reference point, he sounds like Bono: he veers to the high end of his range and he's not afraid to make every note sound important. But more crucially, he's a true frontman. He's remarkably self-assured and you can hear his exertion, particularly on the potential single, "We've Been Had."The Walkmen record in their own studio, Marcata Recording, and they've nailed their sound: Everyone Who Pretended is a pleasure to listen to, a visceral recording with a large soundscape. The palette is also nicely limited: the atmospheric sweeps come from many sources but they have a consistent feel, and the most prominent sounds are the basic drums, bass and guitar that anchor each track. The Walkmen have one innovative texture: an upright piano that's recorded with a warbly, slightly distant sound, like small rocks knocking against each other in the sea. It sounds so neat that Paul Maroon can just idly twinkle out notes, like the plinks that dot "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch." Its texture even dominates the quiet "Stop Talking" and the creepy introduction to "Roll Down the Line," and it carries the pretty, rolling melody of "The Blizzard of '96."The piano helps create their signature sound without becoming a distraction, and also, it's just nice to hear a band use stark arrangements-- for example, the album closer, "I'm Never Bored," starts with just drums and vocals until Maroon and Leithauser layer in the piercing and grinding guitars. These guys play quietly and simply enough that when they pile on the sound, well... it's pretty damn magnificent.The songwriting on Everyone Who Pretended is solid, but it's the title track that really impresses. It harkens back to bands like U2 or the Cure-- not just in tone, but in magnitude: skyscraping guitar smears and then a striking riff, the texture taking flight, and Leithauser insinuating his vocals on top, never weighing down a song that's already soaring. The only complaint you could make is that it's too short-- that, in under four minutes, they play a song that sounds like it should go on for eight or nine, with big video screens looming behind and Leithauser doing something filthy to the mike stand.Remember when U2 was younger and hungrier, and Bono could sing about "the desert sky" so boldly that you could picture it? It's rare today to hear a rock band think that way. This is why the Walkmen deserve attention. There must be some way to make the kids rebellious and excited about the things of this earth, and when I hear a song as vast and propulsive as this one, it gives me hope.-Chris Dahlen, April 8th, 2002"
Brilliant, just brilliant.
Aron Hsiao | New York, New York | 01/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Real music fans know that the best music--whether we're talking Einstuerzende Neubauten or Thelonious Monk or Sonic Youth or Prokofiev--won't give it all up on the first listen. Some of the true greats (say, Neubauten) may not give it up for the first fifty listens. Some people don't have enough patience for the greats. Some people want hooks, they want them big, they want them simple, and they want them NOW.Thankfully, The Walkmen aren't offering you a whole hell of a lot of grocery store whipped-cream hooks on your first listen, or maybe even on your second or third. But if you're a music lover, you may detect on that first listen that there's some serious music going on here, and that you need to give The Walkmen more time--a few more spins--before you make any judgments. If you do, you'll be rewarded.Once you begin to really hear it, this is a beautiful, beautiful disc, one of the best in my collection. The artistry here is incredible. Check out the production and the composition work in Stop Talking or the deceptively simple, almost undetectable word-hook in That's the Punch Line that you'll find yourself repeating days later without at first knowing where you got it. And We've Been Had is an alternative anthem if ever I've heard one.In terms of comparisons to other artists... I don't really think that's a fair question to ask. Sometimes I think I can hear everything from Radiohead to early Malaria to David Bowie to the Pixies here, but that doesn't mean that the influences are obvious or that the music is derivative, because neither is the case by any stretch of the imagination.These tracks are the best kind of music -- they keep getting better and better with each listen."
Give it time
the sean | NYC | 10/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Eric speaks - you listen. Well, at least when he talks about what music you should own/listen to. So, I get a call from Eric telling me that I can find musical salvation in this CD from a group I had never heard of, "The Walkmen." So I went out that day and bought it, because: Eric spoke, I listened. Much to my disappointment, I found the CD boring, and listened to it a couple of times before dismissing it. I relayed my disillusionment to him, and he relayed his right back. He was disgusted with me. "Listen to it more, Sean, it will grow on you: it is the 2nd best CD I have." That's a bold statement for any serious music fan. But he was right, and it did. So, now that I've written a biography of my friend, I'll mention the music! In my experience, the Walkmen are like wine, or French cheese, or something that grows on you after a bitter first taste. I've had the CD for a while now, and I'm still struggling with addiction. The CD has 13 high points, but the highest in my opinion are: "Wake Up," "Blizzard of '96," "We've Been Had" and "Rue the Day." It is stripped down and raw, but I want to call it honest and poetic instead. And their musicianship allows the rawness... er... honesty, to fit aesthetically, as a work of art. It is carried by the drums in places, the piano in others, and almost always as a complement to Hamilton Leithauser's uber-unique voice: it makes for sometimes simple, but always well-layered and well-textured music.Now comes the ever important decision of comparisons: who they sound like. The first thing that springs to mind is U2, but not so... well, U2. They are less Irish and more NYC, if that means anything. Hmm... remember your mother's music box, the one with the ballerina? Well imagine that sound piled over a guitar, bass and an avid voice that is loud without being either whiny or Fred Dursty. Add it up and you have the simple synergic effect that makes for one confused, yet delighted ballerina of a neophyte. And if you don't like it: give it another chance. You might not want your money back. I know I don't."
Finally, something that sounds like good local music
K'taur | Grass Valley, CA USA | 06/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are some people who simply require a band to be on everyone's top 40 countdown in order to spare a listen.However, for the rest of us, good music is good music...nuff said. I first heard of the Walkmen when they played a show at a little (emphasis on 'little') coffeehouse in my comparatively small town of Grass Valley, California. I think the reason I enjoyed this show so much was that The Walkmen evoke the same feeling as do the local bands which I've come to appreciate more than the mainstream artists who always seem to have lost something on their journey to stardom. The Walkmen have a style which is delightfully reminiscent of an earlier era in rock and roll, a kind of carefree nostalgia that simply makes you feel good (clearly, a welcome departure from the despairing, depressed style of today's chart-topping rock).If you ever get the chance to see The Walkmen live, definitely take it, and enjoy the experience of live music the way it should be-small clubs and true sounds. However, until they come to town again, "Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone" is a must-have."