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The Walkmen
BOWS AND ARROWS
(Record Collection)
Stars graphics

Although the Walkmen owe a fair amount of their success to the auspicious timing of the New York rock revival that the Strokes spearheaded, their music is only partly indebted to that fadís studied cool and well-worn list of influences. The New York quintet (with three members of Jonathan Fire*Eater, a much-hyped NYC garage band who preceded the Strokes and imploded before making much of an impact) are a stranger and more uncompromising entity, folding the expected Lou Reed fixation in with hints of U2ís exaggerated pomp and a fetish for wheezy, vintage organs and the corroded echoes of antiquated reverb units.

On their second album, the band vacillate between nervy, bellicose rockers and woozy barroom ballads, seething with righteous anger in the former and morning-after regret in the latter. In both modes, they cast a studied, analytic eye on their simple songs, coming up with a nuanced synthesis of classic and modern rock-and-roll theory. And theory, all New York hipster pretensions aside, is an apt term for the Walkmen, who sound as if they spent hours picking apart the pros and cons of arrangement issues like dropping the bass out for the second verse. Indeed, as aficionados of the form, theyíre smart enough to realize that rock and roll is often the art of what you leave out.

BY BEN STERLING


Issue Date: March 5 - 11, 2004
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