Reviews \

Noise Pop ’08: The Walkmen, Broken West Flaunt New Tunes

But it's more fizzle than sizzle on opening night.

The sixteenth annual Noise Pop music fest kicked off last night with a rather muffled bang at the Independent for a sold-out show where the Walkmen and the Broken West traded live staples for amorphous, nameless new tracks. The Broken West’s breezy power-pop turned decidedly more morose with new songs that flirted on the fringes of ’90s adult contemporary, perhaps fueled by some sort of brewing existential crisis. Only “On the Bubble,” from the Angelenos’ psych-meets-canyon-rock debut I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On, provided a brief jolt of elation — but the moment was fleeting at best.

The Walkmen also started off with new ones, and not even the faintest hint of a certain rodent-inspired number off their lush sophomore effort, Bows+Arrows, that appeared on pretty much any and every mixtape made in 2004. With no “Rat” in sight, frontman Hamilton Leithauser — whose “I-don’t-care-if-it’s-too-tight” gold-buttoned blazer made him look like an alluring prep school bully — struggled vocally on “Wake Up” and “What’s In It for Me,” singing with a cartoon-like bug-eyed strain and hitting the shrill, guttural notes with more shriek then operatic soul. Maybe he over-extended himself during the pre-show festivities, which included a serenade of a donut shop proprietress, Hamilton confessed with a sly smile. Thankfully, he ultimately opted to indulge an expectant crowd, expending many sugary carbs during a stirring encore of “The Rat.”