THE WALKMEN, "Pussycats Starring The Walkmen"
When most bands put the finishing touches on their new album, they're content to kick back, relax and marvel (or stress) at what they just accomplished. But not the Walkmen.When most bands put the finishing touches on their new album, they're content to kick back, relax and marvel (or stress) at what they just accomplished. But not the Walkmen. Instead, recording a front-to-back version of Harry Nilsson's 1974 album "Pussy Cats" was the road they took to recovery after the spring release of "A Hundred Miles Off."
An ambitious task, but luckily for lead singer Hamilton Leithauser, his rough and gruff voice sounds pretty darn close to the scratchiness associated with Nilsson's at the time. The arrangements don't really deviate from the originals, but the Walkmen's versions are noticeably more stripped down. The string section from "Don't Forget Me" is absent, giving the love ballad a sadder, bleaker feel. "Old Forgotten Soldier" keeps the ragtime-y sound of its predecessor, but is just that -- no background noises are mixed in.
On record, Leithauser's voice sometimes comes off strained, which is a necessity, given the Walkmen's fast, pumping rock. But vis-a-vis the slowed-down song structures of "Pussy Cats," what really is evident is that if the Walkmen wanted to write their own playful pop songs (like the bouncy "All My Life), they'd probably find the transition rather easy. It's safe to say there's not a robust market for covers projects of obscure albums, but if nothing else, the Walkmen came up with a good reason to test out the more pop-driven side of their sound. -- Michael D. Ayers