A Hundred Miles Off
Some albums have great openers, Highway 61 Revisited had the snarling kick in the teeth of 'Like A Rolling Stone', Kid A had the disorientating ambient whirr of 'Everything In Its Right Place', and The Walkmen's A Hundred Miles Off has 'Louisiana.' It kick-starts the album with its giant celebratory creole of crashing cymbals, rolling pianos and ballsy brass riffs, sounding every inch a classic. Then, something strange happens, all of the buzz whipped up by the opener is drained by the rest of the album, and it peters out half way through, losing all momentum.
Yes, the difference between this album and the aforementioned classics, is that they used their dynamic openers, and built on them, whereas this one doesn't come close top matching its first track.
Aside from 'Louisiana' there is barely a tune on here, 'Lost in Boston' is a disappointing sub-Strokes effort, that meanders without ever hitting its peak. Similarly 'Tenleytown' is off-kilter thrash that fails to move on from the jolt of its furious intro.
Although many songs on the record are almost amelodic, there is something dark in their dissonant rhythms and desert dry guitars. 'Good For You's Good For Me' is a whirling soundscape, that when coupled with Hamilton Leithauser's Shane MacGowan-does-Americana drawl, sounds genuinely impressive. And this aesthetic doesn't really let up for the duration, creating a consistent ambience that most albums can't boast. The problem is though, there's very little reward in it, and their last two records had that consistency, and still managed to keep you interested for the entire LP.
A Hundred Miles Off is something of a dip in form for The Walkmen, as it's a bit too one-note to be truly great, but there are a couple of moments that save it from being a complete flop.