By all rights and purposes, The Walkmen is a band that defies categorization. The band�s influences are scattered across an awkward spectrum that ranges anywhere from �80s new wavers to Joy Division to puppet-voiced balladeer Randy Newman. On the other hand, critics have likened the
It just seems as if no one can agree long enough about this band�s enigmatic, critically-acclaimed sound to attach a label to it. So, just how does one describe The Walkmen?
Definitely not with a �
�[The N.Y. genre] probably goes back to the Velvet Underground or something,� Leithauser mumbled through the telephone during an interview with The Badger Herald held minutes before The Walkmen were set to play a show in Milwaukee Friday night.
What about the word �incredible,� then? Perhaps the vocalist would prefer this word, which seemed to be the classifying term crossing concertgoers� lips as they left the High Noon Saloon Saturday evening following The Walkmen�s explosive set. This concert, an eclectic collection of boisterous, heavy-hitting tunes, was everything the New Yorkers� albums promise: The percussion boomed, the guitars throttled and lead vocalist Leithauser shrieked and screamed in the most triumphant fashion.
But long before this rusty-throated singer had a chance to exercise his chords, fellow
No matter how earth-shattering or heart-pounding or gut-wrenching the performances from White Rabbits, nothing could possibly top the spectacle presented by The Walkmen. Kicking off the evening with tracks from 2006�s A Hundred Miles Off and 2002�s Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, Leithauser and company finally settled in with �Little House of Savages,� a stretching, organ-hurling track from their highly praised 2004 album, Bows + Arrows. Clutching his mic for dear life, toppling precariously over the audience and screeching above the explosive instrumental lines, Leithauser finally established himself as a serious, though slightly imposing, presence on the High Noon Saloon�s stage with this rattling performance.
According to Leithauser, however, the somber nature the singer adopts onstage isn�t due to boredom or the beer he stashed behind the speaker. Instead, the singer told the Herald that it�s due to the band members� deep passion for their music.
�I think maybe we get up there, we just get really into it, and we come off really serious,� Leithauser said.
All the better for audience members, as The Walkmen�s appreciation for the technical difficulty of their music brought more intensity to each awe-striking performance. On the most memorable song of the evening, a startling rendition of �Thinking of a Dream I Had,� Leithauser oozed frustration as he sang-screamed �No one speaks to me that way/ And me, I’ll be hanging from the ceiling fan,� while revelers in the house danced and sang along with the driving chorus. The singer then quickly changed gears and tamed his acidic vocals into a gentle coo for �Wake Up,� a gritty, slow-tempoed ballad from their 2002 album.
Still, The Walkmen didn�t reserve the entire evening for re-hashing old favorites. Instead, the crew offered audience members a few tunes from their forthcoming album, set to be released this spring. The most notable of these was �I Lost You,� a lyrically complex, passionate love song with Bob Dylan vocals and a �60s-era Roy Orbison tone.
Leithauser explained the process succinctly: �We wrote a few songs where it�s like, you know how [Orbison] always starts with a low growl, and by the end he�s kinda like, [Leithauser imitates a loud shriek]. � You know, we just sort of found that that was a pretty cool format for songs, so we tried to do that a few times.�
Judging by the crowd�s reaction to the ballad, The Walkmen�s new influences are clearly effective. But longtime fans need not fear, the enigmatic sound of these New Yorkers isn�t going anywhere.
Still guaranteeing more of those buzzing guitars, primal screams and pounding choruses of percussion, their upcoming album promises to be just like The Walkmen�s Saturday night performance � incredible.