Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Walkmen @ KOKO, London

27 September 2006

The Walkmen

The Walkmen

As far as geographical disadvantages go, hailing from Austin, Texas must be one of the worst. Because, what do we know about Texas? We know don’t mess with Texas. We know don’t elect a former Texan Governor president. And we also know that Texas is one of the few places in the world where you can utter the phrase “This is my wife and my cousin”, whilst only pointing at one woman.

But apart from that, there isn’t much. Attempting to battle against those prejudices, and provide at least one other reason to care about the second largest state of America, are six-piece Texan natives Sound Team. They’ve already had a fairly well-received debut album (“Movie Monster”) and several high-profileish support slots, culminating in this tour backing up The Walkmen.

They’re a strange mix. Your Eyes Are Liars and “Movie Monster” are pretty Rapture-like, the way the synths and the guitars and the scatterbeat drumming all mesh in to something vaguely danceable, which when combined with the visual cue of five out of work photocopy salesmen (and a drummer who has to be the unholy union of Dave Grohl circa 1995 and Animal from The Muppets), makes you think, clothes by C&A, tunes by DFA.

But then at other, far less interesting, times they’re just a very earnest and very honest middle-of-the-road rock outfit. Six guys with heads down, straining every man-made fibre in an attempt to scrape the sky. Through sheer force of will, sometimes that’s enough: the run through new single Born To Please is belted out with gusto aplenty, sounding large enough to house Bono’s ego, The Edge’s collection of guitars and with enough extra space for storing Ian McCulloch’s grumpiness, but on a far larger number of occasions it’s fairly average and fairly dull.

Although, stood up next to The Walkmen, the Sound Team were a veritable carnival of colour. Depositing the best song of the last record (All Hands and The Cook) and their best song bar none (The Rat) in the first three tracks of the set left you wondering from an early stage where the gig could go.

Down, as it turns out. Rather like the last record, live the band seem to have only one speed, and it’s a speed which finds everyone jarring away on their respective instruments while vocalist Hamilton Leithauser screams and screams and screams until he’s sick. Or at least until he feels the need to swig from another bottle of beer.

It’s rather out of focus; a big wall of sound of which you can pick out nothing in particular, like listening to the world through someone else’s prescription hearing aid. You know there are tunes in there somewhere, but it’s difficult to figure out where they start and where they end amongst everything that is being flung at you.

So anything, be it the familiarity of The Rat, or the woozy trumpets of Louisiana, or the drunken Dylan ramblings of Lost In Boston, that helped break up the feedback drenched monotony are the bits which raise muster. But tonight, there really weren’t that many of those, leaving the visit of The Walkmen feeling more like a trudge through tedium.

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