It's a very different Walkmen that would open a record with delicate acoustic arpeggios, multi-part vocal harmonies, and lyrics about the hard won joys of family responsibility and committed relationships. Heaven 's opener, “We Can't Be Beat”, states unequivocally that the transition apparent on the band's last few records is complete. Heaven shows us a fully realized new Walkmen.
Less apparent, but still intact, is the drunken preppy-garage atmospherics of Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone and Bows + Arrows. It's still there of course, but it's been reworked and refined by age and new priorities, not to mention the fine production work of Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Big Business, Mudhoney). Sonically, Heaven has a punch and three-dimensional clarity that suits this new era of Walkmenliness perfectly. Fans of the early records (like me) may miss the stumbling, liquored-up ne'er-do-wells of “My Old Man” and “The Rat”, but it's hard not to be touched by the sober, fatherly sentiments of Heaven....but then again, maybe it's just the adorable babies on the back cover.
Either way, Heaven cohesively integrates the world-weary wisdom of middle-age and fatherhood (all dads in this band...literally “dad-rock”) with the ambient garage-y textures and intensity that defined earlier albums. The fact that the The Walkmen have managed to pull this off without sounding bored and tired is admirable. The fact that they've pulled it off and made one of the best records of their decade-long career is stupendous. I loathe to call that “maturity”, but I reckon that's what it is.