Throughout The Walkmen’s 2004’s ever-galvanizing opus, “The Rat,” singer Hamilton Leithauser exists to berate, spending the song howling with a finger-to-the-face attitude harping on the phrase “You’ve got a nerve…” to the point of self-destruction. From the constant motion of that song comes a shared anger: one that is infectious and relatable. We hate the same poignant nostalgia that Leithauser hates. We hate the idea of a love unrequited. We hate the uncontrollable. Fast-forward to 2012, where we are afforded the same maturity and perspective as the band itself and have the wherewithal to approach life’s unease with a refined sense of grace — we’ve traded angst for acceptance.
Enter: “The Witch.” On the fourth track off of their latest offering, Heaven, we find The Walkmen draped under a pronounced state of blissful ignorance. Paced by the driving 6/8 of Matt Barrick’s slightly open hi-hat, the band is at ease. Familiarity abounds as vintage organs pulse and sustained guitar notes accompany Leihauser’s scratchy tenor (a voice tailor-made for the crackle of vinyl). In terms of any sort of transformation, where maturity is most apparent is in Leithauser’s lyrics. While topically similar to those in “The Rat,” in terms of his desire to address love and it’s inherent fatalist nature, where 2004 yields violence and resentment, 2012 brings a decree: love will decide.
As Leithauser’s ultimate mantra, “love will decide” exists to refute any sense of the unknown by reconciling potential loss with the beauty of what love could bring. Leithauser’s voice soars over the wonderfully well-restrained band as he sings, “your life in your hand/ you’ve made your demands/ and now what else can you do/ cause that don’t mean love/ love will decide.” The power of those lines rests in that sense that, despite the fact that desires are secondary to fate, just the idea of love is enough to create emotional sustainability. If it’s this type of wizened philosophy that is forging The Walkmen’s current path, I’ll gladly follow.
Check out our review of Heaven here.