Six albums in and The Walkmen haven’t cheered up any, which might be bad news for their personal lives but for fans of bruised rock at its very best, it’s manna from melancholy heaven.
There’s nothing dramatically new about Lisbon: if anything, its production values delve even further back into the annals of NY rawk, calling to mind classic Dylan and even The Velvet Underground in parts. But despite the dearth of innovation, there’s plenty to admire in their timeless songwriting when they get it right, as on the stirring ‘Angela Surf City’, where the guitars ebb and crash with tightly controlled rage, the mariachi funeral march of ‘Stranded’, the lilting lullaby of ‘Torch Song’ or the ‘50s crooner meets REM vibe of ‘Blue As Your Blood’. ‘Juveniles’ builds from a Walkmen-by-numbers affair into a blistering wig-out, with Hamilton Leithauser’s magnificent mantra, “You’re one of us or one of them” sounding like a battle cry.
The problem with Lisbon is that for all its greatness, there are more than a few fillers, from the frankly throwaway ‘Follow The Leader’ to the poor man’s Wilco impersonation of ‘Victory’ and ‘All My Great Designs’. A fine album that with a little more work, could have been their masterpiece.