During John Lennon's separation from Yoko Ono in 1974, he romped around LA with his buddy Harry Nilsson, getting drunk and getting thrown out of nightclubs. In the midst of the party, Lennon, Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, and a rag-tag gang of others headed into the studio with Lennon as producer. The result was "Pussy Cats", a fascinating and often misunderstood album featuring a mix of classics and originals rearranged by Nilsson and Lennon to suit the wild mood of those infamous days. In January 2006, after finishing the final mix for their new record, "A Hundred Miles Off", The Walkmen decided to recreate "Pussy Cats". After all, it's the great buddy record of the 70's; a celebration of rock 'n' roll, good friends, alcohol, and excessive instrumentation that's right up the Walkmen's alley. So they recruited a team of friends to record and visually document the sessions. The limited edition bonus DVD features a 20-minute psychedelic documentary on the making of "Pussy Cats".
Yes, this is a note-for-note remake of Harry Nilsson and John Lennon's 1974 Pussy Cats, and that may be the only reason it could come out in the same year as the other 2006 Walkmen album, A Hundred Miles Off. What makes Pussy Cats Starring the Walkmen so wonderful is first the music: that liquor-fueled yowl that Nilsson bellowed and growled out with Lennon spinning the dials. Beyond the music, there's a passion-in-packaging play here. The double-digipack is lavish, providing a separate tray for a bonus, the "Making of" DVD, a 20-minute piece laced with the narrator's irony and some sweet stock footage. There's also a great vignette where two members of the French Kicks relate dealing with an IRS (the taxman, not the record label) agent who, upon hearing they're musicians, introduces himself as Nilsson's brother--for real. A live group montage of the band's rousing take on "Loop de Loop" shows the Walkmen's Harlem studio packed with partygoers yowling along. On the tunes, the Walkmen are faithful to the abandon that marks "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and aptly heartfelt on "Save the Last Dance for Me." Their trademark mix of scruff and mid-tempo restraint is loosed here, freeing the band to tackle Pussy Cats with glee. It's not redesigning anything, and no global resolutions were reached. But Pussy Cats Starring the Walkmen is a delight. --Andrew Bartlett