So, the first of the Walkmen's albums to completely capture my interest is also their first to be near-universally panned by critics. Maybe its me who is backwards, or maybe these critics were hasty in searching for more of the powerful refrains of Bows and Arrows. It's interesting that those who drew comparisons between Dylan's voice and the lead-Walkmen's didn't take the analogy further. Dylan put his emphasis on content and his ardent vocal-styling was drawn from the passion of personal experience-- and not so much 'emoting' as 'expressing'. In this regard, the Walkmen have raised the bar from the somewhat run-of-the-mill Strokes-inspired Bows & Arrows, and forged a singular expression that separates them at last from their indie-garage roots.
Other than the ostentatiously Dylanesque album closer "Another One Goes By" (perhaps more appropriately compared to Mott the Hoople, with a 50's-ish pop-waltz backing), the single tracks rarely stray from the album's overall sound. The melodic style of the opening "Louisiana" sounds the most like a track off of Bows & Arrows, and its also the track that regularly excites many of the indie-rock critics. Only after that do we get a sense of how A Hundred Miles Off differs from its predecessor: the focus moves from the song-writing, from the melody, to the subtler vocal changes and to the lyrics themselves. The experience of the album is more complex, challenging and in many respects more intriguing than standard indie rock. But don't let me mislead you into thinking this is some kind of masterpiece-- though a worthwhile chapter in the Walkmen's short career so far and an entertaining, listenable album in itself, it probably won't go so far as to make the top ten or fifteen in the next end-of-year lists. In short, I think the Walkmen's latest offering solidifies their standing in the genre, proves they have real talent, and promises a few more remarkable albums in the future.