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Walkmen ‘A Hundred Miles Off’ target

The Walkmen’s last album, Bows + Arrows, remains one of the best albums of 2004. While it’s probably unfair to ask for the band to perpetuate its sound, isn’t it reasonable to expect something that sounds vaguely similar? The band’s latest disc, A Hundred Miles Off, runs slightly off bull’s-eye as far as follow-up albums go. Everything that made Bows + Arrows good – squalling guitars, the organ pulling the melody together, the strong-textured vocals of lead singer Hamilton Leithauser and the danceable beats – has been replaced by a more abrasive sound.

The album starts out with good intentions. The first track, “Louisiana,” is a sweet, melodic song that would fit nicely on a road trip compilation. After that, though, the album starts to head south. Even though the sounds are slightly consistent and maybe even more refined, it doesn’t hide the fact that Leithauser’s vocals have become noticeably more harsh, and at times, slightly intoxicated. You’ll understand when you get to the tracks “Always After You (Til’ You Started After Me)” and “Brandy Alexander.” The vocals on both songs are a little whiny and give off a somewhat drunken vibe. But hey, they’re rockstars and it’s their job to record under the influence, right?

While an inebriated sound has become part of The Walkmen’s appeal, there is indeed a market of fans out there for it – the album could leave your head spinning.

Lyrically, the boys continue to stay witty and illustrate what having a good time is all about. They’re fun and sloppy. One of the Walkmen’s best songs to date, “The Rat,” off Bows + Arrows, is hard to top with words like “When I used to go out / I’d know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all.” In A Hundred Miles Off, you can see the band’s sense of humor in amusing song titles such as, “Emma, Get Me A Lemon” or “This Job Is Killing Me.”

It’s probably true that most fans of The Walkmen will not dismiss the band because this record doesn’t live up to their expectations. However, if you grudgingly let go of all that you wanted A Hundred Miles Off to be, you might grow to appreciate it for what it is.