Monday, December 9, 2013

The Walkmen Take A Hiatus (Videos for "Heaven"- Official & Live)

The Walkmen (photo in digital booklet from Heaven, 2012)
As the news of fave indie rock band The Walkmen taking a hiatus hit last week, I found myself reeling in self pity.  I have been a fan of the band since their song "We've Been Had" on that Saturn ad back in 2003 caught my ear and left me wanting much, much more.  Not that they didn't deliver -- when I finally saw the band live at Crossing Brooklyn Ferry in May 2012, they were playing material from album number seven, Heaven, which wasn't even out yet.  Old and new songs were presented with the same gritty take on indie rock, sealed by the plaintive, emotional tenor of frontman Hamilton Leithauser. This concert had me holding my heart often, as their authentic approach to traditional band instrumentation and soul-bearing music cut to the core. The night earned a spot on my list of Top Concert Experiences in 2012, while the album was a Top Ten Releases of 2012.  The title track was also one of my Top 20 Tunes of 2012, after appearing on my Early Summer 2012 New Music Playlist. Now that band members are moving on with solo projects, this album may well be the very last one.

The official video for the song "Heaven" shows a nostalgic pastiche of footage and photos of The Walkmen through the years. A lengthy article on Stereogum discusses how members joked how they should quit after this video was made, since it was such a fitting conclusion to the band.  It begins with someone's kid hopping around backstage, as the lyrics enter with "Our children will always hear, romantic tales of distant years." Yet as the song was presented live, I had no idea the end was near.  They played like a super tight group as always, with a common upbringing in the D.C. area creating an instant bond that carried into the music.  Sure, they had spread out from those early years as young men making their way to the Big Apple, to Philly and New Orleans, and the new collection was created virtually, but that's nothing unusual these days.  After all, the song credit was still given to The Walkmen, a nod to the group aesthetic.  But it seems recent gigs were treated as guys getaway weekends, with the pull of family responsibilities bringing an early conclusion to the rock and roll lifestyle.  While I'm saddened by this next stage, I'm still thankful for all the great music in my collection attributed to this band.  Check out both videos below, and be sure to acquaint yourself with anything by The Walkmen you may have missed along the way.