Rhythm & Views

The Walkmen

To say nothing else, it's a bit of a disappointment. That said, A Hundred Miles Off, the third release by New York's the Walkmen, does get better upon repeat listens. Still, the group has moved away from the pummeling rhythms and salon-piano flourishes that defined their previous releases, and they certainly take a step back from the drunken, woozy, ferocious brilliance of 2004's Bows + Arrows.

However, as suggested by the ramshackle beauty of opener "Louisiana," they can still craft an indelible pop gem. With its mariachi- horn breakdowns and singer Hamilton Leithauser's croaky croon, the song shoots into instant classic territory (this band can do it with ease). Furthermore, the haunting gleam and tenacious bark of "All Hands and the Cook" and the U2-isms of the propulsive "Emma, Get Me a Lemon" rival their best work.

Sadly, flaws abound. The shiftless "Always After You ('Til You Started After Me)" never finds a groove, "Tenley-Town" is a laughable punk send-up, and for some reason, they end things with an exact duplicate of Mazarin's shimmering ballad "Another One Goes By." Sure, it's a great tune, and it's nice to give props to an album that was almost universally ignored, but ending an album with a cover just feels wrong.

These flaws still don't make this an awful album, just the Walkmen's least-enjoyable work to date (which, given their quality, is not as bad as it sounds). At the very least, they're not as far off as the title may suggest.