As nasty as it may sound, thank god the Walkmen broke up. While news of the acclaimed New York post punk garage-rock outfit was sounding a whole lot like tragedy at the time, the resulting album "Liberation!" by the bands former bassist Peter Mathew Baur makes it feel pretty worth it. Baur has taken the split as a chance to expand his wingspan creatively, resulting in an album that’s slick, resonant and infectiously psychedelic.
Anyone whose ever given the Baur’s former band a cursory listen would expect this to be at least somewhat similar: a frantic exercise in nihilistic post punk. Which makes it surprising that Baur’s music couldn’t have less to do with that sound; this an exploration in heady, upbeat psychedelics, never lacking in emotion and fundamentally based in sense of optimism.
One of the most fascinating elements is how the album blends local and international aesthetic without ever feeling like appropriation or pandering. Songs like the titular Liberation blend Spanish guitar and good old fashion Brooklyn grunge in a way that actually feels natural and clean. Irish Wake In Varanasi Blends familiarly aggressive guitar licks to craft a real sense of melancholy; each song is more counterintuitive than the last, and the result is consistently music that conveys these downbeat emotions in a manner that’s exhilarating and easy to listen to.
The whole effort is the culmination of a meditative post-split tour through Europe, and it shows. It’s relaxed and casual, making the effort to be profound but never seeming to break a sweat doing so. The album has a depth closer to couchbound musings with your buddies than any great work of philosophy, but Baur clearly understands that and embraces it to the fullest result by feeling organic and conversational.
"Liberation!" is by no means the top of its field, and as a newcomer to the genre may always be in the shadow of other solo reinventionists like Kurt Vile. But Peter Baur has crafted a tight, sincere, and relaxing piece of psychedelic indie-rock. But while you should go into the album with tempered expectations and a mellow temperament, don’t be surprised if it strikes an emotional chord or two when you let your guard down.
The album comes out June 24 and can be listened to on Spotify or downloaded at Mexican Summer