Bows & Arrows
By: Eric Greenwood
The steady speed of the opening guitar strum on "The Rat" sounds exactly like something from The Wedding Present's heyday, circa Sea Monsters in 1991. Once those sixteenth notes on the high-hat kick in, I am so sold. It's an instant classic. The guitars are searing, the drumming is acrobatic, and Hamilton Leithauser's voice is anxious and ferocious, as it clips out desperate pleas: "Can't you hear me?/I'm calling out your name." Featuring most of the sorely missed, long-defunct Jonathan Fire*Eater, The Walkmen step up to the major label plate (Record Collection is a Warner Bros. imprint) with a difficult yet strangely beautiful second album. It's angular and moody post-punk, draped in sheets of ambiguity and dense atmospherics. Leithauser's voice is wore-torn and authentic in its casual conveyance of hopelessness and despair. He sounds so much older than he is. The Walkmen run a tight ship, musically. The rhythm section is remarkably forceful yet also controlling and restrained. The threat of what might happen next maintains the high level of tension throughout the record. The band makes some of the simplest chord changes sound downright angelic. It's an utterly engrossing listen, and you feel emotionally drained when it's all over. And like the hopeless addict you've invariably become, you immediately have to hear it again.