The Walkmen - Heaven

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8.5 Release Date:2012-06-04

Ten years in existence and 6 albums would probably result in a band resting on their already glorious and fruitful fanbase and content in the knowledge that they could knock anything out and people would buy it. However, in the case of The Walkmen's newie, Heaven, it is only now they are really getting the recognition they richly deserved.

Back in 2008 when they released the tempered and melancholy You & Me, you sensed they had more to offer which came with the joyous ditties on 2010's brilliant Lisbon and represented a watershed for The Walkmen. Heaven is another great leap forward, and is a much more rounded album with an almost cuddly feel to it. Hamilton Leithauser has one of the most distinct voices in Indie circles and he croons with the passion of Roy Orbison on 'Love is Luck', a ballad of unrequited love which echoes a million broken hearts with the line "After the fun, after the bubblegum, there is no sweetness left on my tongue".

By Contrast, opener 'We Can't Be Beat' is all country acoustic with Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold lending a willing hand in the backing vocal department. 'Heartbreaker', meanwhile, is a bouncy slice of indie-pop with Paul Maroon's distinctive, rhythmic guitar riffs rivalling Hamilton's rich and fruitful vocal in a bout of healthy competition.

Heaven is a step up musically. Check out the melodramatic 'The Witch' with its plethora of chiming guitar sounds and slowburning organ. The slowly hand-picked strings and heavy, melancholy balladry of 'Southern Heart' hints of loves gone by. 'Line By Line' is very similar in arrangement, the guitar reminiscent of Radiohead's 'Street Spirit'. Leithauser chooses his words carefully but they take a back seat on Maroon's arpeggio guitar. It's almost like they are lining you up as they push the pedal to the floor with 'Song for Leigh'. 'Nightingales' is awash with skitty guitar and a soaring stream of whoas from Leithauser, demonstrating a band bursting with confidence and a willingness not to take themselves too seriously at times.

A lot of Heaven flits around the issues of love, broken love and the warmth of the family circle. 'The Love You Love' is a soaring and joyous wish to throw their arms around everyone. It's almost a John Lennon love-and-peace moment. The title track tells a similar tale: "Remember, remember, what we fight for" and "Don't leave me now, you're my best friend". Aw.

The Walkmen have come out fighting with Heaven, not in the literal sense but metaphorically speaking. It's a demonstration that if you have the talent and are prepared to stick at your chosen career path you'll eventually see the fruits of your labour.

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