The Walkmen deserve praise for painting their influences with something that is both a few shades weirder and more charged and electrifying. On the hell-raising "The Rat," from its second full-length, Bows + Arrows, the group sounds like it's updating a lost U2 track circa '83 (when Bono, the Edge, et al. heaved with youthful vehemence), combining that group's huge, soaring sound with the gritty pulse of NYC's punk/post-punk heyday. It bounces between full-on guitar/organ attacks like "Little House of Savages" and drunken lullabies such as "138th Street," on which Hamilton Leithauser's coos and moans call forth a Tom Waits and Shane McGowan amalgam. All the while, they retain their trademark cavernous and echo-laden identity.
But though Bows + Arrows is a bit more dynamic than the band's debut, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, it's sorely missing the latter's dreamy and woozy moments of brilliance, such as the catchy, off-kilter "We've Been Had." That first album was spacious and patient when it delivered odd pop melodies. Bows + Arrows comes off as a bit more stripped down, louder and more urgent, though that certainly isn't a bad thing. The Walkmen appear Tuesday, March 16, at Fat Cat's, 4215 Washington Avenue. The French Kicks and Rescue are also on the bill. For information, call 713-869-5263.