Of all of the albums a band might choose to re-create, Pussy Cats, Harry Nilsson and John Lennon's drunken incursion into the bowels of New York City, would rank high on the unlikely list. Recorded during Lennon's separation from Yoko Ono, the original album was a high holy mess: a stumbling, out of tune, tongue-in-cheek amalgamation of dubious covers and half-assed originals. Produced by Lennon and recorded with Nilsson having a ruptured vocal chord, songs such as "All My Life," "Don't Forget Me" and even a contemptible run-through of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" actually reflected the turbulent year of 1974 rather well.
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More than three decades later, the Walkmen not only duplicate the effort note for note, they also replicate much of the original's soused ambiance. On the opener, Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross," Walkmen singer Walter Martin matches Nilsson's strained throat, shriek for shriek. The New York group's obsession with antiquated analog technology serves them well on this project. The hiss is crystal clear, and the band sounds joyfully buzzed throughout. Yet coming on the heels of A Hundred Miles Off, the Walkmen's third CD, released just this spring, Pussy Cats comes off a bit too cute, pervasive with a somewhat cynical look-how-obscure-we-can-be attitude that doesn't jibe with the group's previous reputation. Like Camper Van Beethoven's deconstruction of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, Pussy Cats is fascinating but, like the original, hardly revelatory.