Listen while you read: Never Understood on Spotify
Upcoming tour dates: www.WalkerLukens.com
Full photo album at the bottom
WALKER LUKENS IS BACKSTAGE LOOKING FOR A CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE. He brought one for his bandmates to open before the album release party at 3Ten, though it seems to have gone missing.
He might have left it behind the bar. If that’s the case, that’s where it will remain. The venue is packed now as opening band, The Eastern Sea, is finishing their set. The trip through the crowd probably isn’t worth retrieving the champagne.
Walker Lukens & The Sidearms
The man has a lot to celebrate this year. He’s put out a slew of singles and music videos, leading up to the release of Never Understood - a collaboration with producer Jim Eno of Spoon. Just this month, Lukens played ACL Music Festival and opened for LA pop darlings, HAIM, to a sold-out crowd at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater.
After a three-show release weekend in Austin, Houston, and Dallas, the band is hitting the road with a 17-date tour, dubbed Make America Lifted Again. Yes, there are yard signs available at the merch stand. And in case you thought that name was just thematic opportunism, know that the bandmates submitted early ballots the day they left town, so they are at least civically-responsible thematic-opportunists.
If you’ve tracked Lukens the past few years, you’ll know that he’s a hustler. He’s constantly recording or touring or making a music video. He writes the songs. He plays multiple instruments. He maintains the van. He unapologetically wrote his own (hilarious) bio on his website, expressing his hope that people realize ‘damn, this guy is hungry,’ signing it, ‘With Love & Squalor, Walker.”
Lifted" Music Video"
The first thing I enjoy about this new record is the throwback elements to his early sound. Beatboxing and looping have been a through-line for Lukens records since I started listening around 2013. In many ways, he's moved beyond some of those garage/bedroom-recording novelties, but it's comforting for old listeners to still have a few of those elements remaining.
But on to the new stuff.
Walker Lukens has found his voice. He knows when to break it up, when to go falsetto, when to stay tender, and he performs each mode well on this record. He’s been able to translate the on-stage animal frontman tones into the studio, along with the crooning styles that were characteristic of his previous records.
Lastly, production-wise, the maturation is obvious. Perhaps it’s the magic touch of producer Jim Eno. Perhaps it’s the development of a songwriter and performer who’s now been doing this for a while. Likely, it’s both. The use of space in “Lifted” and the layered power chorus of “The Touch” scream studio experience and perfectionistic tendencies at the recording console.
Walker Lukens and producer Jim Eno of Spoon
Might I add that “The Touch” should be included in everyone’s Halloween Party playlist for being hauntingly groovy.
“Jacket on Ya Shoulders” is a quintessential live track for any Walker Lukens fans. The doo-wop loop, the Lenny Kravitz (that’s a compliment) exclamations, and the McKenzie Griffin Queen Sidearm sass-factory being employed at full-tilt, make it an undeniable good time. The studio version does not disappoint
And finally, the title track, “Never Understood” serves as the perfect closing relief to an otherwise explosive four-song EP. It proves that "pretty" can be applied to something other than Lukens’ infamous hair and leaves you wondering if we’ll be hearing more of this direction in the future.
Make America Lifted Again
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Walker Lukens is approaching hometown hero status in Austin. It’s an appropriate sash to wear for a group that’s making a name for 1) being a dazzling live act, 2) rooted in a some blues and soul, and 3) has a touch of quirk. There may be a little torch-passing going on from the Jim Eno lot as well.
PS: The night after his Austin release party, Walker Lukens & The Sidearms played at the Continental Club in Houston. I saw a picture from the show, taken from the audience. Lukens was on stage, beaming, hair in full form, and a champagne bottle prominently in his hand.
Party on, Walker. We’ll be voting - I mean, rooting - for you.
Check out the upcoming tour dates at www.WalkerLukens.com
All photos by Andrew Bennett Photography, Austin based music photographer