The Walkmen : “Pussy Cats”

<p> <img src="" alt=" " />There are a couple of interesting themes are at work here.  This Walkmen release is a cover of the entire album, <i>Pussy Cats</i>,...
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The Walkmen : "Pussy Cats"There are a couple of interesting themes are at work here.  This Walkmen release is a cover of the entire album, Pussy Cats, by Harry Nilsson, which itself actually features 5 ½ cover songs.  Also, during the recording of these tracks, Nilsson’s vocal cords were pretty much shredded, making it the ideal cover project for Hamilton Leithauser, whose voice always sounds like he just ate a sandpaper soufflé.

While The Walkmen may not have gone through their own lost weekend of debauchery, they do a faithful job of revamping and adding a modern lushness to the John Lennon-produced LP.  It was a strange project for The Walkmen to pursue after already releasing an album this year, but they pull off an alluring re-look at the soul found in the original.

The opening track, “Many Rivers To Cross”, a Jimmy Cliff cover, is perhaps the most compelling track, featuring a velvety slide guitar and smooth crawl like one long, cool drag off a cigarette.  The aching strain in Leithauser’s voice holds up to the original while supplementary strings fill the background.  Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” gets a fun, grungy injection this time around with multiple voice tracks doing Nilsson & Lennon’s work.  The Walkmen do fine work upgrading the covers to supercovers.  “Save the Last Dance” is essentially the same, but it might actually have more emotion to it.  For “Loop De Loop”, Nilsson brought in the “Masked Alberts Kids Chorale”, while the Walkmen had a ton of friends in the studio, making for a more powerful, arousing feeling.  Even as cheesy as it is to hear a room full of people screaming “Here we go loop de loop”, it’s whole-hearted and entertaining.

As far as Nilsson’s own songs, The Walkmen crank out renditions Harry would certainly be proud of.  “All My Life” isn’t as porntastic as Nilsson’s, but the female singing along is a nice touch.  Leithauser’s vocals in “Don’t Forget Me” are genuine and touching.  The Walkmen add a nifty, old-timey feel with the piano in “Old Forgotten Soldier”.  These originals are done a distinguished amount of justice.

While some may ask “why?”, others ask “why not?”  This tribute to Nilsson is executed with gusto and grace, squeezing life in the tiny cracks of an already wild album.  It should be an attractive introduction for the uninitiated to Nilsson and the mythos behind his and Lennon’s lost weekend.  Well worth the effort.

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