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The Walkmen Are Taking an Indefinite Break

The Walkmen, extreme hiatus

One of the foremost independent-minded New York rock bands of the past 15 years may be calling it quits. The Walkmen played a show on November 30 in Washington, D.C., where the group’s members grew up. They’re set to play another on December 4 in Philadelphia, where they’re also partly based. And then … that might be it. Forever.

“We have no future plans whatsoever,” bassist/organist Peter Bauer told The Washington Post. “I’d call it a pretty extreme hiatus.” He wouldn’t rule out the band playing shows or making music together again, but made clear there’s no planned end to the break. “I think it’s weird to make a hubbub about something if there’s nothing to really make a hubbub about. At the same time, I don’t think we’ve been a gang properly for a long time, so there’s not much to break up, I guess.”

Formed after the 1998 demise of hotly touted New York band Jonathan Fire*Eater, the Walkmen have released seven pretty excellent studio albums, battling the rock-revival associations of their early records and coming out as world-weary artisans of elegant rasp — they’re not called Walkboys, you’ll notice. Probably best known for the howling post-punk of “The Rat,” from 2004 sophomore album Bows + Arrows, the band has consciously moved on from its early signature style.

The change first arrived jarringly — via 2006’s live-sounding, saloon-leaning A Hundred Miles Off  (revisit “Louisiana,” still a margarita-soused stunner) and the same year’s cheeky full-album cover of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats — and then sublimely, with 2010’s mellower Lisbon. Last year’s Heaven, now the Walkmen’s de facto swan song, also had its moments of triumph.

“When I used to go out I would know everyone I saw,” frontman Hamilton Leithauser sang on “The Rat” more than a decade ago, over it even when it had only just started. “Now I go out alone if I go out at all.”

In honor of the impending year-end as well as the Walkmen’s indefinite hiatus, here’s organ-led breakup bawler “In the New Year,” from 2008’s You & Me.