I know Hamilton Leithauser, the singer of The Walkmen, more than the band itself. He has gone solo since 2012 and released some songs that have gotten a lot of attention. Leithauser has a very powerful voice. Form the blurb I gather that The Walkmen used to be a bit louder/punkier. But for this set, Leithauser plays an acoustic guitar so this band isn’t getting too abrasive, that’s for sure.
The first song “Heaven” has a swirling guitar and bass motif that reminds me instantly of some 1990s songs. The song is really catchy and Leithauser never lets up with his powerful singing. The blurb comments on his voice, that it gives the songs “grit and grace, not to mention hair-raising intensity that feels a little jarring coming from a bunch of guys in crisp button-up shirts.”
“We Can’t Be Beat” begins as a slow verse with just acoustic guitar and singing. Then the electric guitar plays some ringing notes as the drums play delicate percussion along with it. About half way through the song, he holds a really long note (“so looooong” and then the whole band picks up the song with a loping sound that propels the song very nicely.
“Love Is Luck” has a nice beat and some great guitar sounds. It’s another catchy song from the band.
I enjoyed this set quite a bit, although I found that after listening a few times I got a little tired of Leithauser “woah oh ing” so much.
[READ: July 21, 2016] “Aphrodisiac”
The aphrodisiac at the heart of this story is interesting and subtle–it doesn’t even exactly seem like a part of the story until the end.
But I found the bulk of the story a little too long and unrelated to the aphrodisiac to be really enjoyable.
The story is about Kishen, a university graduate who had big plans to write a novel about India–to be really sunk into the Indian experience. He had gone to school in Cambridge, but was now living back home in New Delhi with his mother and older brother Shiv. Shiv had recently gotten married and Kishen was meeting the bride for the first time. Her name was Naina.
Kishen found her to be kind of stupid. However because of his own hang ups, she was the only person he felt comfortable talking to. She seemed to accept him and even made him part of her circle of girlfriends–they all seemed to be amused by him.
Things were good for about two years and then Naina started to assert herself more around Shiv. She started to bring furnishings into their house. Shiv and Kishen’s mother allowed Naina her decorations because she seemed so proud (even though they were rather distasteful).
Once Naina became pregnant, she went home to her parents house (which is custom–thank you for including that comment in the story). She came back with a baby boy and a nursemaid named Bari-Mai. Bari-Mai was an old woman who had been Naina’s nursemaid and Naina’s mother’s nursemaid well.
After the baby was born, Naina stayed home. She never went out and so Kishen and her spent a lot of time together. She was comfortable around him–nursing in front of him and what not. She also began falling into bad habits–smoking, eating betel, and giving some to Kishen.
After the second baby, Shiv began to stay out later and Bari-mai assumed more control in the house. And while Kishen’s mother was too polite to say anything about Naina, Naina was not too polite to hold her tongue about Shiv. She complained incessantly.
Finally his mother told Kishen to get away–apply for another degree in England, flee this place. And he was excited to get away as well. But when Naina heard this, she was very angry. And she held out his application (she had stolen it from the mail) and asked if she should tear it up. He felt like it was a game between them, one that he would win, but the result was probably not in his favor.
The story (unexpectedly) jumps fourteen or so years into the future. Things are mostly except that Shiv is more powerful and is home less often, Naina is fatter and Kishen still has noting to show for himself. Kishen’s mother has also taken ill.
Nothing seems to work for the mother–she’s not dying but no one can find a cure for what ails her. And Naina keeps implying that Mari-Bai has caused the illness and is the only one who can fix it.
Finally, Shiv decides to send his mother to England to see a doctor. Can they escape the stranglehold that is on the house?
The ending was really interesting, but I felt the bulk of the story dragged a bit.