Release Date: Aug 19, 2008
Record label: Gigantic
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Bile-soaked single The Rat gave the Walkmen their biggest hit, but this doubt-ravaged fourth album is their most cohesive success. Its atmospheric, indie-infused Americana is a late-night treat, Hamilton Leithauser's raw vocals - he sounds like a broken, drunken Bob Dylan - setting the contemplative tone. Seven Years of Holidays (For Stretch) juggles past rootlessness with a desire for security.
A uniformly compelling fine tuning of an already-luminary actYou & Me, a dark and pensive refinement of six years of music, ousts The Walkmen from the streets of New York City to locales both exotic and familiar. These forays into new territory breathe life into well-worn songwriting, and demonstrate why their place in the pantheon of the New Gods of indie rock is justly earned. The instrumentation conspicuously lacks the aural immediacy of the band's past work, but isn't any worse for the loss.
The Walkmen took a working holiday from their usual sound on their remake of Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats and, to a lesser extent, on the Dylan-goes-Latin vibe of A Hundred Miles Off, but they return to more familiar territory on You & Me. Quite literally, too: the band revisited the same studio where they laid down Bows + Arrows for some of this album's sessions. However, travel is one of You & Me's major themes, with beaches, holidays, and provinces placing these songs all over the map.
“I’m still living at the old address,” Hamilton Leithauser of the Walkmen proclaims on “In the New Year,” the first single off You & Me. And indeed, his band has maintained a rather stable position compared to other groups that came out of the fertile New York City scene earlier this decade. Maybe the fact that the Walkmen was never the most buzzed-about band has shielded the group from the accusation of diminishing returns, which has been hurled recently the Strokes, Interpol, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
When the Walkmen released their song-for-song cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats two years ago, it was thought the band might be getting a little too eccentric. Were they in danger of falling victim to whatever career-poisoning curse currently plagues fellow early-decade New York bands like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Maybe that was their plan all along - lower expectations, then hit us with something as engaging as You & Me. This album feels firmly in the gutter, and that's a positive for slurring Dylan-phile Hamilton Leithauser, who moans and wails throughout, ruminating about lost friends and lovers while the guitars pour reverb-drenched notes over his sepia moments.
The Walkmen began fierce, fleeting even, Hamilton Leithauser screaming tantrums, but there comes a time when life becomes less severe, when it means something bigger. The NYC quintet's fourth original effort, You & Me, astounds in its strong restraint and classicism. Leithauser enunciates (!) through midnight mullings as Matt Barrick re-establishes himself as one of the most expressive modern-day percussionists.
To their credit, the Walkmen have avoided making a career of copying the glory of “The Rat.” In the wake of their acclaimed sophomore album Bows + Arrows, the New York quintet added mariachi horns, upped the sleigh bells and covered Harry Nilsson in an effort to find a new direction. On You & Me, they’re trying something new by trying nothing new at all. Though it pales in comparison to its closest likeness – 2002 debut Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone – You & Me looks through the same jaded glasses after rolling a little further down the line.
As an attempt to move beyond the post-punk noisiness of 2006’s A Hundred Miles Off, the fourth proper Walkmen album is a success. Snaking through You & Me is a hard-to-miss blues vibe—part of it was cut in Oxford, Miss., with John Agnello (Hold Steady, Dinosaur Jr)—and even though no one’s going to mistake the Walkmen for old bluesmen tearing up a juke joint, it’s an approach familiar to anyone who’s ever heard the Delta in, say, the Bad Seeds or PJ Harvey. The brooding, waltz-time “Dónde Está La Playa” is powered by a recurring blues guitar riff, while the distant, mournful trumpet of “Red Moon” performs a similar function.