The best art moves you, makes you feel something the way that its creator felt when he or she made it. Itâ€™s a rare quality, but itâ€™s the only one that really matters when it comes to longevity.
Hamilton Leithauser has this gift. Heâ€™s been yelping and belting his innermost frustrations on The Walkmen albums for years with a success that most rock and rollers of Leithauserâ€™s nature will never find.
The rest of The Walkmen lay down tight, emotionally wrought arrangements that match up perfectly with Leithauserâ€™s words. Itâ€™s a combination that has created songs like â€œThe Ratâ€ and â€œLittle House of Savages,â€ easily two of the best rock songs of the last 10 years.
So for their sixth studio album, my hopes were high. Itâ€™s not to say that itâ€™s a let down, because the album certainly has its moments. â€œWoe is Meâ€ has the classic Walkmen sound with Leithauser letting his voice soar over the catchy, guitar-driven sounds. Â
In fact, the instrumentation on this album is beautiful. South-ofâ€“the-Border guitar licks pepper nearly every track. Driving bass lines braided through four on the floor drumbeats make this album an interesting listen.
Sadly, The Walkmenâ€™s strength throughout their career comes off as the weakness on this album. Leithauser just doesnâ€™t have his mojo.
â€œStrandedâ€ is the first single off of â€œLisbon,â€ and it is one of the few instances when Leithauserâ€™s vocals ring as true as they do on The Walkmenâ€™s best songs. Telling, though, is the songâ€™s first line. Leithauser sings, â€œThrow another dime in me my friend, and Iâ€™ll sing a song I know for you.â€
When despondency is the only emotion that you can convey with conviction, then something might be wrong.
This album makes a perfect jukebox addition. It doesnâ€™t burn as brightly as previous efforts, but even when The Walkmen get it wrong, theyâ€™re still better than whatever was in the CD player before them.
Music reviewer Nic Turiciano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.