The Walkmen : Bows & Arrows

An album that will never make a fuss in your collection, but every now and then you'll remember how much you love it.

Not that we want to encourage growing up, but some time around the age of 28, you stop being a ‘band’ in the sense that your record is basically a loss leader for all the shagging, drugging and hairdressing. Which is all good and great, but after some of those people die, some go rich, solo and shit, and some go into ‘short films’, the rest of them start making records rather than just being in bands.
And The Walkmen know enough about being in bands, having collectively been in two – reconstituted from the remains of cult DC alt.rockers Jonathan Fire*Eater and still culter DC alt.rockers The Recoys. When those bands split, they formed The Walkmen because they “dug each others’ bands”. ‘Bows & Arrows’ is their second album and it’s a bit Bunnymen, a bit Mary Chain, a bit Cure, a bit U2 – in fact, another bit of great music that suggests that, these days, the only decade to be referencing is the ’80s. And in contrast to the likes of Franz and Scissor Sisters, The Walkmen are all about the dark indie.
And yet, to call The Walkmen revivalists would be to lump them in with the band of retards they’re pushing out of the way. The real reason ‘Bows & Arrows’ sounds the way it does is because it’s the sound of experience. It’s a lesson in what happens to scenes when other people leave them alone and they sprout off in their own different directions, the scuzz of ’90s New York and Washington allowed to grow and expand and evolve into something new. Lead single ‘The Rat’ could be Interpol with a chesty cough, ‘138th Street’ could be a new wave Dylan, and ‘Hang On, Siobhan’ could be the, hush, Tindersticks. Overwhelmingly, it all adds up to an album that will never make a fuss in your collection, but every now and then you’ll remember how much you love it.
Right now there’s a whole clutch of these bands, such as The Bronx and The Constantines, making this kind of brash, crunchy, masculine rock music that’s a wee bit in touch with its gay side. Out of all of them, The Walkmen are probably the least shagging, drugging, haircutting of the lot. But they have made the best record.

Dan Martin