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The Walkmen “Pussy Cats: Starring The Walkmen” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Outside of a certain realm of music fan, despite his overwhelming catalogue and history, Harry Nilsson is still a slightly obscure reference, much like The Walkmen. Despite being “music fans” there is a large segment of people who haven’t had the opportunity to hear music by either Nilsson or The Walkmen, and for the longest time I was one of them. It took me until Bows + Arrows to hear The Walkmen, and that was only after numerous praises from indie’s higher ups. Likewise it was only after similar situation that I heard Nilsson, who I still cannot say that I am overly familiar with, that I was remotely introduced to a sliver of his vast catalogue. While Pussy Cats is generally viewed as Nilsson’s rebellion-stage wag of the finger to his record label, The Walkmen have yet to reach a level of notoriety that exceeds their generally unknown status. With that, Pussy Cats: Starring The Walkmen has the opportunity to serves as, to some, both an introduction to the band as well as impenetrable hero, Harry Nilsson.

But why would a band who had previously released an album of original material this year, which was received to mixed reviews, attempt a cover of what is essentially a covers album at a time when it may find itself artistically drained? Well, for fun, mostly. And there’s really nothing wrong with looking at the album as an afterthought, something that the band did when it knew that its work was done for the day and it was free to kick back and take time off. In an interview with Pitchfork Media earlier this year Walkmen member Walt Martin spoke of the album, “It just sounded like a really fun idea…we got lucky somehow and were able to do it fast. It never got to where it was a real drag. It was fun the whole time, somehow.” Contradicting these statements are thoughts of Pitchfork’s Jason Crock who later wrote of the album, “It’s not hate, it’s practicality: The Walkmen’s note-for-note reproduction of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats is not being given away as a free download, nor as a CD-R at shows, a fan club release, or even a limited run – they’re just plain asking for your money on this.”

But when taking into account the situation that the band landed itself in this year Pussy Cats seems like a move that had to be made. When your band is stamped and branded with genius overtones and labeled as brilliant, it makes perfect sense to fill the studio with some sixty of your friends and record the children’s standard “Loop de Loop.” When your follow up to what many consider your shining moment finds empty ears from even some of your most devoted fans, attempting to record material that was mastered by a drunk with blown vocal chords just makes sense. It is a note-for-note reproduction, as Crock had previously noted, but it’s a note-for-note reproduction that lands a band relief from both creativity sucking hype and the mental fatigue that follows.

The Walkmen is still unknown to many; yes, but is recording a favorite album of yours amongst a group of friends a crime; no. Pussy Cats: Starring The Walkmen wont serve as a breakthrough allowing the band to expand its presence in both modern rock and the global music community, but it will allow the band’s members to take a mental break from constantly having to live up to what some deem as the band’s full potential. And that just simply makes sense.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]