It would be nice if every band could claim roots that went as far back together as the Walkmen. Now all between 23 and 28, they claim to have been playing together in some way or another since fifth grade.

These New Yorkers are beginning to get some attention, too. Their new album, Bows And Arrows, has shot to the top of college-radio charts based largely on the strength of their previous effort, Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone. The Walkmen are deceptively hard to place, sometimes leaning toward U2, sometimes toward Radiohead and always with a strangely distinct hint of The Strokes.

“What’s In It For Me” kicks off the album with a crooning Hamilton Leithauser, formerly of the Recoys. One can’t help but think of the song as a dreamier “Is This It.” Over backward guitars Leithauser’s voice floats, “We had one in the hand / It was one in the hand / You never come over any more.’

The Strokes’ parallel is the most evident on the band’s single, “The Rat,” which could almost mirror “The Modern Age” if Leithauser had not wisely chosen to give a more forceful delivery.

It should be noted that this is a chicken and the egg situation. In 1996, The Walkmen’s previous project, Jonathan Fire*Eater, was briefly hailed as the upcoming savior of rock and roll — something fellow New Yorkers the Strokes are all too familiar with.

The Walkmen, however, tend to stretch their boundaries quite a bit. “No Christmas While I’m Thinking” is full of grandiose swells and wavering vocals, while others take the more direct rock approach. Overall, Bows And Arrows keeps the balance well, never letting the tempo drop too long and always coming back with something engaging.

Drummer Matt Barrick deserves generous credit for changing up the tempo. “Little House of Savages” maintains a high level of energy thanks to a mixed-up drum line and droning bass. Leithauser sings, “Somebody’s waiting for me at home / I should have known.”

“138th Street” has a twinge of Velvet Underground, with twinkling keyboards and dial-tone sounds with generous echo. “Someday when you turn around / you’ll take a wife / and start a life / it won’t be long,” croons Leithauser. The song has a truly classic, timeless quality; it could just as easily have come out of the ’60s or ’70s as the current decade.

It’s moments like this that elevate Bows And Arrows above other current offerings — moments when the listeners forget they’re listening to anything at all and slip into introspection. It’s easy to see that the Walkmen have put their share of emotion into their record, as well as a good deal of deep thinking.

“Hang On Siobhan” gives the band another chance to show it can nail the slow tunes. The slow waltz is carried by a contemplative piano melody, a sparse synth and a floor tom.

Leithauser sounds drained as he sings, “You’re calling me back / When the money is gone / It’s all in for us / That’s as good as it got,” doubling the piano part.

Overall, Bows And Arrows succeeds in keeping the listener listening — not a small feat in an age where the single is king and file sharing has all but destroyed the popular conception of the album as a whole. From start to finish, the Walkmen manage to stretch their boundaries, but never lose sight of the cohesive whole and make something alternately danceable and beautiful.

Grade: A/B