The Walkmen

The Walkmen deserve praise for painting their influences with something that is both a few shades weirder and more charged and electrifying. On the hell-raising "The Rat" from its second full-length, Bows and Arrows, the group sounds like it's updating a lost U2 track circa '83 (when Bono, the Edge, et al. heaved with youthful vehemence), combining that group's huge, soaring sound with the gritty pulse of N.Y.C.'s punk/postpunk heyday. It bounces between full-on guitar/organ attacks like "Little House of Savages" and drunken lullabies such as "138th St.," on which Hamilton Leithauser's coos and moans call forth a Tom Waits and Shane McGowan amalgam. All the while they retain their by-now trademark cavernous and echo-laden identity.

But while Bows and Arrows is a bit more dynamic than their debut, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, it's sorely missing the latter's dreamy and woozy moments of brilliance, such as the catchy, off-kilter number "We've Been Had." That first album was spacious and patient when it delivered odd pop melodies. Bows and Arrows comes off as a bit more stripped down, louder, and more urgent, though that certainly isn't a bad thing.

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Jeff Skruck