Review ·

One of the age-old debates about art (and for the sake of this discussion, we're assuming a shambolic cover album made under what sounds to be the influence of copious amounts of alcohol by some New York City indie rockers counts as "art") is about for whom it's made. Do artists attack their work with the outside world/audience/public in mind? Or is all art really made simply for the creator, who uses it as some cathartic release of inner feelings? Maybe that's a bit too deep. Maybe it's just for artists to entertain themselves? That sounds like a better explanation for why the Walkmen did a track-for-track remake of Harry Nilsson's 1974 album Pussy Cats. I'm sure it was quite fun for the guys to have a go at one of their favorite albums, but no one outside the band really needs to hear the results. It's horribly inessential.

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Not even the biggest Walkmen fans are going to like Pussy Cats. In fact, they might be the most let down. Because the band's usual high-drama, tense-up-and-release dynamic high-jinks are not to be found here. What is here is a faithful attempt to recreate the original's boozy, whimsical one-offness.


The schmaltz is in high gear from the word go. "Many Rivers to Cross" has a glossy, Phil Spector-by-way-of-John Lennon (who produced Nilsson's original) wall of sound. Per tradition, Hamilton Leithauser's voice is gloriously flayed, screeching out, "It's such a draaaaag/ To be on your own."


A big contributor to the album's inessential status is that the original already featured covers, making some of what the Walkmen offer up here covers of covers. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is sweetly sloppy, dominated by walking bass and skrawnky sax. And "Loop de Loop" and "Rock Around the Clock" are both run through with nuclear-blasted-out brashness.


Oddities abound throughout Pussy Cats' ten tracks. "Don't Forget Me," "Old Forgotten Soldier" and "Save the Last Dance" are all drunken, spiteful piano ballads. "Mucho Mongo" veers off into lounge-lizard land. And "Black Sails," with Mazarin frontman Quentin Stoltzfus on vocals, is a gothic opera tune full of wailing vocals and trilling pianos that's almost unlistenable.


The band's third album, A Hundred Miles Off (released by Record Collection in May), may have underwowed, but at least it stuck to what the Walkmen do best: spiky, through-the-echo-chamber drone rock. The original Pussy Cats may not be classic enough to be untouchable, but Nilsson was enough of an oddball original, and the album carries so much back story, that a remake of it just ends up being a "why bother" moment.
***

Band: http://www.marcata.net/walkmen/

Label: http://recordcollectionmusic.com/

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/thewalkmen

Stream Pussy Cats: http://recordcollectionmusic.com/pussycats/

  • Many Rivers To Cross
  • Subterrannean Homesick Blues
  • Don't Forget Me
  • All My Life
  • Old Forgotten Soldier
  • Save The Last Dance For Me
  • Mucho Mungo/Mt. Elga
  • Loop De Loop
  • Black Sails
  • Rock Around The Clock
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