Release Date: 19/08/08 Label: Gigantic Link: “It’s back to the battle today, But I wouldn’t have it any other way” The opening lyrics to ‘Dónde Está la Playa’, the first track on The Walkmen’s new album, come across not as a statement of intent, nor of resignation, but simply of fact.  They have the air of a band who are happy in their skin – they have found their sound, their audience, their place in the world.  This is what they do. Formed from the backbone of Jonathan Fire*Eater,  The Walkmen’s 2004 single ‘The Rat’ (from their largely uninspiring Bows + Arrows album) saw them flirting with the mainstream success which had previously proved elusive but at the same time marked them, not without justification, as riding the coattails of The Strokes.  But like Neil Young 30 years previously, they seemed to find travelling along that road a bore and headed for the ditch - the “ditch” being 2006’s A Hundred Miles Off, a raw rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece which lost them a fair amount of their new fans, and repulsed a number of cloth-eared critics, but remains one of my favourite records of the last few years. Sonically, their new album does not stray too far from its predecessor.  Indeed, it almost sounds as if they had returned the following week to cut another album (or, if you were feeling less charitable, released the outtakes from those sessions).  Hamilton Leithauser’s vocals are still an acquired taste – all Dylan-esque drawl in the lower register switching to an off-key half-screech when he reaches for the high notes – while the timeless backing of echo-drenched guitars, keyboards and drums somehow manages to sound both traditional and other-worldly at the same time. The principal difference is one of mood.  Where A Hundred Miles Off was packed with uptempo angry rockers, much of You & Me sounds subdued and content, downtempo but not downbeat.  As a result it can all sound a bit samey on the first few listens with songs that would undoubtedly shine in different company taking a while to stand out.  Highlights include ‘In the New Year’ - with a rousing chorus that deserves to usurp Auld Lang Syne - and ‘Red Moon’ - an elegant waltz with mariachi trumpets. But the best is saved until last: the closing four tracks would make one hell of an E.P.  ‘The Blue Route’ comes across as an successor to ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ (sneering “You used to be some kind of a joke” before repeatedly demanding “What happened to you?”).  ‘New Country’ is barely there – just a simple guitar figure and plaintive vocals which belie the resolute lyrics (embracing the end of a relationship with no sadness or malice, but as an opportunity for freedom and adventure).  The trumpets return for ‘I Lost You’ which builds and builds from it’s understated opening, showing that it is possible to write an emotional rock song without resulting to histrionics and bombast.  Closing ballad ‘If Only It Were True’ sounds so simple and yet so instantly classic that you can scarcely believe it has not been written before.