At times soft and inviting and others cold and indifferent, the Walkmen manage musical polarization. The nucleus of the band (the guitar-organ-drum trifecta of Paul Maroon, Walter Martin and Matt Barrick, respectively) show roots in mid-’90s anti-heroes Jonathan Fire*Eater, a band that should’ve been as over-exposed as the Strokes are now. While the urgency of Fire*Eater has been exchanged for subdued emotion with the Walkmen, it hasn’t lost the appeal. With this, the NYC quintet’s second full-length, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser settles into the soft pocket of a lyricist who’s finally comfortable and aware of his surroundings, whether it’s the downright vitriol of “You’ve got a nerve/to be asking a favor” on “The Rat” or the contemplative “Somebody’s waiting for me at home” on “Little House Of Savages.” Martin’s hypnotic Farfisa-whirl matched with Maroon’s reverb-soaked strum plasters a wall of dense dynamics while Barrick’s sleigh bells and broken tambourine toils only occasionally interrupt his hulking hi-hat dominance and thunderous Moon-like fills. From lullaby to rocker, Leithauser’s Bono-fied note distention alternates between feel and fight, while bassist Pete Bauer cautiously picks and places his cyclic tones. “138th Street” even offers the faded snapshot of walking alone in a slight snow on an abandoned Big Apple avenue illuminated by a lone street lamp. The end result is a perfectly actualized album.
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