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The Walkmen march to their own beat

Anyone who begins their album with "I was the Duke of Earl..." deserves attention.

The Duke of Earl is a mythical creation. Essentially it's a nonsense devised by singer Gene Chandler in the early 1960s when he elaborated on a doo-wop riff by adding his mate Earl's name. His song went to No 1 and was covered by solo artists, beat groups, reggae acts and rappers. It even featured at Woodstock and still graces the repertoire of acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Walkman singer Hamilton Leithauser invokes this persona, over a gentle acoustic guitar figure, before ruefully admitting, "It couldn't last". But as the song unfolds to include a loping garage feel, they find a hint of salvation. "We can't be beat," bleats Hamilton. "The world is ours."

The New York crew remain optimistic despite having spent more than a decade releasing albums to a demographic all accountants frown upon: a cult following. Those same bean counters no doubt half-expected The Walkmen to enjoy a breakthrough akin to The Strokes. Indeed, you might think you detect a hint of a similar scratchy guitar ramalama on tracks like Heartbreaker and Nightingales. But The Walkmen have a more varied palette. And a greater sense of soul-searching.



optimistic

The band called this 13-track album Heaven because, "It's big and optimistic and fun and grand." I wouldn't disagree. Song For Leigh has hit written all over it. That's if radio stations can accommodate a gentle mid-tempo ditty that relies on chiming guitars, restrained dynamics and hooks that prompt involuntary singalongs.

Sounding mellower these days, they can still get shouty, as on The Love You Love. Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes adds luxurious harmonies and helps make Heaven a satisfying experience.

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