Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Album Reviews

Bernell Dorrough

The Walkmen
Bows and Arrows
Record Collection
Grade: C+
Final Word: The Walkmen plod along without much direction.

After the initial boom of the New York rock scene, music listeners were skeptical as to whether all those “The [Noun]s” bands could make it a repeat performance. The Strokes managed to hang in there with “Room On Fire,” although one could argue that it’s just the first record on cruise control. The Walkmen’s second album, “Bows and Arrows,” suffers from the same disease. What’s new here? What really grabs the attention and pulls the listener in? What makes you want to pop it back in the CD player after the initial listen? Nothing, really. The Walkmen continue to churn out their slow-burning post-punk, but chances are you won’t give it a second chance.

If the Walkmen know how to do one thing, it’s set the mood. These eleven songs are awash with the kind of fuzzy feedback and echoing organ that transports the listener to a smoky midnight bar. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser has just the right combination of cigarette-heavy rasp and barfly desperation in his voice to complete the atmosphere. “What’s in it for me? / I came here for a good time, and you’re telling me to leave,” he croaks on the opening track. And on “Hang On, Siobhan,” the spare piano and melancholic vocals recall early Tom Waits.

Unfortunately, these slower moments are also some of the album’s most boring. In a frustrating pattern, “Bows and Arrows” alternates between fast and slow songs, and the latter are formless and meandering for the most part. An album’s worth of songs like “Little House of Savages” and “Thinking of a Dream I Had,” however, would be a real keeper. When the band rocks out, there’s no stopping them. Witness track two, “The Rat”: an organ line is punctured by a frantic, shuffling drumbeat, and Leithauser practically screams in his best spurned lover growl, “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor, / You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number!” Then there’s “My Old Man,” which is Strokes-tastic with its repeated drum/guitar backbeat and simple melodic hook. Too bad these high points are pretty much forgotten by the time the lethargic closer lazily peters out into silence.

Hell Yeah!
Grade: B
Final Word: Promising debut from Danish horror fans.

HorrorPops are a Danish rockabilly band featuring guitarist Kim Nekroman of the Nekromantix. The music they craft is a mix of 50s rock and roll, surf music and a dash of Spirit of 77 punk. The band primarily exists, however, as a platform for the personality of lead vocalist/upright bassist/pinup Patricia HorrorPop. Her singing and playing on their debut album, “Hell Yeah!” turn what could be a silly novelty act into a valid rock band with a ferocious star at its front.

Patricia HorrorPop acts and sings like the punk offspring of Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe-and has the mixed blond and black hair to prove it. She rips off solid rhythms on her upright while crooning lyrics influenced by 50s pulp novels and B-grade horror films. She can sing a line about a guy with a “Kool Flattop”-from the song of the same name-and make it sound convincing. Her sex appeal is all over this album, and each vocal line drips with personality.

The music has less bite. The guitar lines are fluid and sound authentic to their 50s roots, but often pay too much homage to the music of the past. The drumbeats are slightly repetitive and uninteresting. The songs are well-crafted, and when they remain short, as “Drama Queen” and “Ghouls” do, they keep the listener’s ear. Too often, though, the songs take detours through instrumental passages that try to resemble surf-guitar god Dick Dale, but fall quite short. These instrumental passages also neglect the strongest aspect of the album, the personality and voice of the band’s lead singer.

HorrorPops have made a promising debut record. If they stick to their strengths, they’ll make listeners scream “Hell Yeah!”

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