Review: The Walkmen @ Scala, Kings X, Feb 20th 2009.

The Walkmen – The Rat

“Buy or sell, buy or sell, I’ll take any spares.” At close to 9pm there are ticket touts aplenty floating around tonight for Fierce Panda Records’ 15th birthday party headlined by the jewel in their crown that is New York’s The Walkmen. It’s an unusually mild Friday night in London which makes the large queue a far more tolerable experience than it could have been. Well that and a little street boozing.

Once inside it’s apparent that if the venue isn’t at complete capacity then it’s not far off as I catch the main support band on the bill this evening, Hatcham Social. It’s the second time in as many weeks that I’ve come across their 90’s sounding indie rock. Unfortunately after being disappointed the first time even the considerably superior sound set up on offer tonight isn’t enough to save them. Live even ‘Give Me The Gift’ a song that sounds genuinely exciting on record becomes bland and rather colourless. That’s two strikes.

There’s nothing bland about The Walkmen tonight and in particularly the voice of Hamilton Leithauser who evidently possesses the lungs of a man twice his size. After four albums proper and almost a decade gone the band know how to play to their strengths and Hamilton’s voice is capably backed up by a vintage rock sound created by the blend of organ, guitar, bass and drums of his bandmates.

If there’s one criticism of the band then it’s that they could be accused of sounding a little samey to the unaccustomed ear but anyone who’s listened to their material before will pick up on the subtle nuances and the quality of the lyrics and song writing which reward repeated listens. New album ‘You & Me’ is no different in that respect and we’re treated to quite a few tracks from it this evening, stand outs are ‘In The New Year’, ‘Canadian Girl’ and ‘Red Moon’ which reaches out and tugs a few heart strings. Despite quite a bit of slower material on offer the band keep it largely short and sweet so as to still have a quite drunken Friday night crowd consistently enthralled. When the rockier numbers like ‘Little House Of Savages’ do come out it’s to the unified delight of the audience. The most rapturous applause of the evening award goes to oldie ‘The Rat’ which has to be one of my favourite tracks ever. I hope that it’s euphoric chorus of ‘You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favour, you’ve got a nerve to be calling this number’ will long remain in my memory banks.

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