The Walkmen are happy sad sacks on latest, Lisbon
There are at least a couple of conceivable explanations as to why the Walkmen currently bring out the crowds in Lisbon, Portugal. One could be that music fans in the capital city are attracted by the name of the troupe’s most recent album, Lisbon, a song cycle inspired by two vacations the band spent there. According to guitarist Paul Maroon, another possibility of why the region identifies so much with his group’s elegant underdog anthems could be that, well, the songs perfectly score their unhappiness.
“I read once that people in Lisbon are the most depressed people in Europe,” he says with a laugh over the line from New Orleans after explaining that the band does better in the Portuguese city than most. “Maybe that’s the connection. I haven’t the foggiest idea what we do for them. They sure like the new record, though.”
Caught in his adopted home city cleaning up after his youngest daughter—“Veronica has just made a mess of me,” he explains, shortly after getting spit up on—the guitarist fondly recalls the bonding session he had abroad with his bandmates, who include vocalist Hamilton Leithauser, drummer Matt Barrick, bassist-organist Pete Bauer, and organist-bassist Walter Martin.
“It was grey and rainy the whole time,” he remembers of the trip. “We thought it was sort of gloomy. We really loved it.”
Though throughout the album Leithauser comes across like he’s feeling 47 different shades of blue, there’s generally a silver lining to his otherwise sad-sack lyrics. Backed by Barrick’s propulsive tom-tom thuds and Maroon’s nimble guitar, opener “Juveniles” hints at moving on from a troubled relationship, but it has the singer delivering lyrics like “I am a good man by any count/And I see better things to come” with a sigh and a smile rather than a sob.
Other highlights on the diverse disc include the fast and frantic, organ-driven rock jam “Angela Surf City” and the rail-riding country number “Blue as Your Blood”. The surge in creativity is notable, as the quintet felt it was hitting a wall during the writing sessions for its last disc, 2008’s You & Me.
“We’ve conquered that,” Maroon says of the bout of writer’s block, adding that the troupe has already knocked out over 20 songs in contention for their next album. Whether all the material’s up to snuff, however, remains to be seen.
“There’s one song I really like that’s six minutes long,” he says of a new tune, though he quickly reconsiders its worth with a smattering of self-deprecation. “Now that I think about it, that’s what happens to bands when they get older. They start writing crap that’s, like, six minutes long. That’s what we’re doing, I guess.”
The Walkmen play Venue on Monday (September 5).