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Bows & Arrows

4.0 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Bows + Arrows (DMD Album)
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Audio CD, February 3, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

This Washington DC-bred, NY-based quintet's first album of emphatic, deeply textured rock was embraced by fans, radio, and press as something fresh and unexpected, which is why album number two, "Bows And Arrows", is one of 2004's most anticipated new releases.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 3, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Record Collection
  • ASIN: B00018D486
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,721 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven G. Milam on December 25, 2004
Format: Audio CD
On The Walkmen's attention-getting debut, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser often sounded like a slightly inebriated but infinitely cooler-than-thou New Yorker sidling across the bar to seduce your girlfriend. But on Bows and Arrows, their sophomore effort, it is clearly Leithauser's girlfriend that has been snatched away -- and the palpable frustration, desperation, and ultimately resignation that this twist generates plainly makes Bows and Arrows the bolder statement of the two.

Leithauser sings with a much more seething edge here, a trait that is showcased the most on the record's two most immediately striking tracks: the rampaging testiment to overwhelming loneliness that is "The Rat", and the jagged crescendo of the stunning "Little House of Savages." Despite how stellar the rest of this album is, these two songs can't help but be the standouts of the collection -- in fact, they may end up selling the other tracks fatally short upon the first listen. But revisiting the music shows that primarily, Bows and Arrows is a work of subtle undercurrents and quietly effective songcraft, and some of its most showstopping moments may drift past inattentive ears.

The album's most effective characteristic is its near-perfect sense of time and place. It's tough to think of another album that puts the listener so vividly in the haze of early morning in the city that never sleeps. "My Old Man" plays out like the singer's bitter ruminations as he stumbles drunkenly home at 3:00 in the morning from watching some dirty schmoozer grope his girlfriend all night at a smoky New York bar.
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Format: Audio CD
"Bows & Arrows" doesn't stray far from the first album by the New York-based (and D.C.-spawned) Walkmen, but it stays on firm ground. It has some duller moments (such as the plodding closing track) but manages overall to provide some good solid rock with a few alluring flourishes.
A slow, reverberating riff opens to the mournful question, "What In It For Me?", before kicking off into a round of solid rock songs (the vaguely new-wave "Rat," the rather strange "House of Savages"), melancholy laments ("No Christmas While I'm Talking," the music-box ballad "Hang on Siobhan") before winding up with the soaring rocker "Thinking of a Dream I Had" and the unexceptional title track.
Perhaps the biggest problem with "Bows & Arrows" is the hesitant quality -- nothing ever breaks loose. It may please you, but it won't blow you off your feet. But the unpolished atmosphere of it will make your spine tingle at times, and it hints that the Walkmen may get even better.
The guitar work tends to range from good to outstanding, especially when it erupts in "Rat" or twangs in "My Old Man," with a backdrop of thunderous percussion. Twining through it all is an undercurrent of piano and organs, a shivery wall of synths that are twisted every which way. At times, the synths even sound a bit like a string chorus.
Frontman Hamilton Leithauser has a sort of raw, hoarse voice, a bit like a very desperate Bob Dylan. At times ("My Old Man") the music drowns him out, but most of the time he adds to the atmosphere.
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Format: Audio CD
The Walkmen may be a young band, and "Bows And Arrows" their second album, but they definitely have their feet planted firmly in an earlier time. With their occasionally messy working-class rock sound and reflective lyrics, these guys sound a lot like they're trying to become this decade's equivalent of the Replacements. Indeed, on a few tracks I think I can hear frontman Hamilton Leithauser straining to replicate Paul Westerberg's raspy croon. And it's when they come closest to matching the Replacements' anthemic style that the Walkmen are at their best.
Making the most immediate impact on "Bows And Arrows" are the hard-driving uptempo rockers "The Rat," "Little House of Savages," and "Thinking of a Dream I Had," where Leithauser's impassioned howl is backed by walls of jangly guitars and Matt Barrick's whip-smart drumbeats. With Leithauser intoning his longing lyrics in an aching croak, "My Old Man" and the post-breakup story "The North Pole" manage to be both depressing and defiant at the same time. Slower, atmospheric, almost elegaic songs like "What's In It for Me," "No Christmas While I'm Talking," and the piano-driven "Hang On, Siobhan" may take a little time to warm up too, but they're worth the wait. However, the band doesn't really stretch out until the concluding title track, a five-minute plus number that burns slowly and builds steadily through some insistent drumming and twisted guitar work. It's a little weirder than the rest of what's found here, but that winds up being a good thing.
While the quality of the songwriting and musicianship is generally good, I still have to say I was a tad bit disappointed in this album.
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