The Walkmen


Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The Walkmen – “New Country” from You & Me (2008 Gigantic/Fierce Panda)


I should begin, I suppose, by making a few things very clear: 1) I have never used heroin 2) I cannot in any way condone heroin use 3) I do not have any reason to believe that the members of the Walkmen are heroin users.

Okay, having acknowledged as much, let me say that there is a certain, let’s say, opiated quality to everything the Walkmen do. I listen to their music and think, “huh, this seems like maybe what all the best parts of being high on heroin are probably like.” At some point this blog will be so lucrative that I’ll be able to hire someone to check whether or not I’ve overused certain adjectives like “languid,” which, incidentally, would be a perfect way to describe the Walkmen’s music. It’s a lot of slurred, blurred edges.

But that’s a lazy description that makes it sound like their approach to songwriting and rock and roll in general is lazy, when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Listening to the Walkmen, if I’m really listening, that is, I feel like I can hear pages from just about every era in what we might call the American songbook. Okay, so maybe there’s not a lot of funk or hip-hop represented in their offerings, but suffice to say that the Walkmen have tapped deeply into the vein of Americana.

As to their approach of rock and roll, I think it could best be characterized as one of sneaky defiance. It’s the reverb, it’s the vocals, it’s definitely the drum arrangements, but everything about the way these songs are structured is at once a harkening back to the past and a reimagining of the way things could be.

Or maybe I’ve just been taken in by it all.

“New Country” is simply guitar and vocals, and recalls something out of the Ozarks by way of something more classical, maybe John Fahey, except for that everpresent Walkmen reverb. The simplicity of the song structure betrays a greater complexity at work, and lyrically it is a song about new days, new opportunities, about stepping out into the sunshine and taking advantage of everything life has to offer.

It is optimistic, it is beautiful, and for me, it is a welcome excuse to revisit the Walkmen catalog and appreciate anew everything that they bring to what they do.