Thursday, 28 June 2012

Album review: THE WALKMEN - Heaven

Highlights: Heartbreaker, The Witch

Heaven is the sort of indie rock album I can only appreciate while it lasts (though only fragmentarily), and then I will forget all about its handsomely ringing guitars, sweet but unexceptional melodies, and perfectly decent vocals that don’t have an ounce of personality about them. I have a hard time thinking of two reasons why anyone would find time to obsess over this stuff, but at the very least it’s all really well-done – so I’ll give them that. Still, the fact remains: this is indie music with no identity.

Guitars really are the best thing about this album. They are clear, crisp, jangly, bluesy, folksy, rippling, and just plain gorgeous. And when the melodies are good (“The Witch”, which is a unique song in that it has its Nick Cave moments mixed with its Shins moments; the infectious single “Heartbreaker”), it all makes for a very enjoyable listen. Most of the upbeat songs are actually quite effective – it’s when they go for the atmosphere, dreaminess and minor chords (“Southern Heart”, “Line By Line”) that I start losing them completely. What am I supposed to make of the closer, “Dreamboat”, that for all its outward prettiness has very little in terms of substance? It’s just poor. The more upbeat tracks do not outstrip this 
bland balladry by a mile, but they are at least moderately catchy.

Heaven is never annoying: it’s frustrating. It’s good but faceless. Sadly, The Walkmen are from that all-familiar story in which an excited friend gives you a record saying this is the shit. You go on a listen to it and then come back to your friend saying well, okay, but have you heard…?

Think a nice little indie-rock band run over by Fleet Foxes.


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