The Walkmen

SXSW Records

Phases and Stages

The Walkmen

Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone (Startime International) It starts out a winner, theatrical vocals over a cold organ sound and train-track drums that evoke an icy Joy Division. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any better for the Walkmen than two-minute opener "They're Winning." Organist Walter Martin and drummer Matt Barrick (both former Jonathan Fire*Eaters) are the stars of the show on this debut, it's just that vocalist Hamilton Leithauser isn't quite the Tim Booth sound-alike he initially seems. Which is okay, but judging by his perpetual croon throughout Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, somebody must think he is. Instead, his perpetual rising, falling, and drawling give him the sound of an alternate-reality Bono who fell into a mad wino funk after Zooropa. And it's not like the Walkmen are incapable of carrying a song instrumentally. The title track's Stephen Morris-style staccato beats blend with warm, reverberated drones, with Paul Maroon's occasional clanging Wire-style guitars adding welcome character. Hamilton's pipes keep a low profile here, something that ought to happen more often. Far too often the rest of the band plays it mellow, offering up piano plinks and other such decoration meant to accompany Hamilton's cries. His voice ain't the worst on the planet, but there are better centerpieces to be found. (Saturday, March 16, Chile Pepper, 1am)


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