CD Review: The Walkmen “Lisbon”

“Country air is good for me / no matter whose side I’m on,” sings Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen. A farmer in his field fixes a broken down fence. A policeman drives by in an old Volkswagen. A woman cleans out a stall, huge wads of dirty straw stick out between the tongs of her pitch fork, while another counts money in a bank. But then, at night, everything changes. Taxpayer, tallyman, farmer, doctor, whoever – everyone gets together to dance, feast and drink. Sure, there’s work, but there’s love, music and life. The Walkmen’s fifth album, Lisbon, was released September 14 and has captured this same passion and soul through rock.

Drawn-out beats, melodramatic horns, resonating guitar, crashing symbols, rickety pianos and swaying rhythms make you feel like the music is coming from the clouds.  Leithauser belts out tunes with fervor and his mates, Paul Maroon (guitar, piano), Walter Martin (organ), Peter Bauer (bass guitar) and Matt Barrick (drums), create symphonic energy.  Songs like “Standed,” “Blue as Your Blood” and “Torch Song” make me want to grab a beer, put an arm around my neighbor and sing along. But interestingly enough, compared to the rest of the album and the city itself, the title track – “Lisbon” – is listless.

Nevertheless, The Walkmen’s sound is certainly their own. Over ten months, the New York and Philadelphia-based musicians recorded 29 songs and from those, extracted the 11 on Lisbon. During that time, they worked with well-known engineers/producers Chris Zane (who also engineered The Walkmen’s fourth album, You & Me) and John Congleton (Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky) to help maintain the tone that the band envisioned.

Fans of The Walkmen will definitely enjoy this record and if you’re a new fan, Lisbon will make you want to travel to Europe. I am going to check them out live in Montreal on October 8 at the Cabaret Juste Pour Rire – see you there!

For more information about The Walkmen, see their Myspace page.