Review: The Walkmen | Lisbon

Fat Possum
By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  September 7, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars

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If the Walkmen were home décor, they'd be an old snowshoe hung above a mantel. If they were food, they'd be that canned liver pâté Big Edie eats, over crackers, in Grey Gardens. If they were a sitcom character, they'd be Alex P. Keaton after an epic bender. Fuck Vampire Weekend — the Walkmen are indie rock's original louche preppies, and they're way better at it, too. While Vampire Weekend hang out with Joe Jonas, the Walkmen are moving to Philadelphia, reading John Updike, and playing around with vintage sleigh bells. As long as L.L. Bean continues to make belts with ducks on them, the Walkmen will continue to make murky, warm songs, and Hamilton Leithauser's howl will remain a strained revelation.

In their 10 years together, the band have had only one lousy record, A Hundred Miles Off — and you can't even fault them for that one, since their hearts were elsewhere. (Namely, with Harry Nilsson, whose Pussy Cats they covered in its entirety and released the same year.) With the exception of this one tiny fumble (which, for the record, wasn't all that bad, just kinda dull), the Walkmen catalogue blends into a wistful, occasionally pissy swirl. This is a great thing.

Lisbon is no exception. It offers a peppy antidote to You and Me, their especially downbeat 2008 offering, walking you through all the requisite Walkmen emotions: chipper resentment ("Blue As Your Blood," "Woe Is Me"), resignation ("All My Great Designs"), hung-over longing ("Torch Song"). But it's "Juveniles," the opener, that consolidates in one track all we expect the Walkmen to deliver. There's Leithauser, sounding like your favorite crazy uncle, crooning heartily about God knows what over a pleasantly mournful calypso guitar. Pass the Scotch!

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