The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off Review
by Jordan Rodgers
2006 has become quite the disappointing music year for this indie fanatic. Aside from the new Tapes N' Tapes record The Loon, which is really a 2005 record that has finally been released in 2006, not a single unabashedly great indie record has been released all year, at least from my perspective. Indeed, this is true even in spite of efforts by well-respected artists, including Cat Power, Page France, and the Flaming Lips. All of the new albums by these artists have proven to be not necessarily bad, but decidedly lacking in the creative spirit of these bands' previous work. Another respected indie artist that has not lived up to expectations with their 2006 effort is the Walkmen. A Hundred Miles Off is an uninspired record, a boring addition to a (thus far) boring year in music.
Your enjoyment of the new Walkmen album will be a direct result of your feelings about lead singer Walter Martin's vocals. He certainly has a distinctive voice - picture what Bob Dylan might have sounded like if he'd fronted Rancid, and you might have somewhat of an idea what to expect. In any case, Martin's vaguely whiny voice (which I don't necessarily dislike) is put front and center in all 12 of AHMO's songs, and set to the backdrop of rather uninspired and homogenous angular guitar riffs and drum fills. The guitars and drums are the biggest reason this is a boring album; they aren't poorly done, necessarily, but there is no emotion behind these arrangements. This doesn't sound like a really good album; rather, it sounds like a really well-rehearsed one.
Some songs work better than others, of course. The jangly guitar shuffle of opener "Louisiana" is a high point, especially during the crescendo of shimmery guitar and trumpet that is the song's chorus. The foreboding atmosphere provided by the organs and shrieking vocals of "All Hands and the Cook" provide another high point. However, this is as musically adventurous as the Walkmen get… the other good songs on the album ("Danny's at the Wedding" and "Tenleytown" furnishing the best examples) are good not because they are musically interesting, but merely because they have good melodies, and speed up the tempo a bit to relieve the monotony. In general, this proves to be a sin that is typical of 2006's musical offerings - no heart behind well-rehearsed pieces creates "good" but ultimately worthless music.
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The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off
Label:Record Collection Music
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