Album Review: The Walkmen – Heaven
While previous releases could at times feel a little claustrophobic and crowded, here the songs are given room to breathe. The panic and anger of earlier releases have been replaced with songs of heartache, yearning, regret and reflection. It may be a simplification or even a cliché to say that the band are maturing, but it is certainly true that these are no longer the angry young men who so spitefully ranted and shouted their way through The Rat. The gleeful exuberance has been replaced with a more world-weary voice. For example, on ‘Line By Line’, Leithauser laments ‘line by line, we all scrape by’ and even on the more upbeat ‘The Love You Love’, he sings ‘Baby it’s the love you love, not me.’
That is not to say that Heaven is a dour and brooding record or that it is devoid of fun. There is still plenty here to get excited about. Even when the subject matter is heavy, The Walkmen retain their playfulness with swaggering moments spread throughout the album, such as the call to arms chorus of title track ‘Heaven’, the driving rhythms of ‘Heartbreaker’ and the previously mentioned ‘The Love You Love’.
The high points of Heaven, and there are many, are as good as anything The Walkmen have ever produced. There are however a couple of tracks that fail to grab attention and become little more than background music. While every album should be judged on its own merits, it is also important to look at it in the context of the band’s history and in this respect The Walkmen suffer because of their own high standards. What for most other bands would be a career highlight is for them a worthy entry in a stellar catalogue. Just short of greatness, but still much better than anything most other bands are capable of.