The Walkmen probably view the new hype as very much like the old hype: With a different singer they used to be called Jonathan Fire*Eater, a late-'90s band that got its own quick spin through the mass-media turnstile before burning out in the haze of DreamWorks' gory mishandling. They sound exhausted by the effort: Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, their shrewdly titled forthcoming debut long-player, is a bleary swirl of heavy-ass drums and guitar reverb, singer Hamilton Leithauser's theatrical yowl swooping between the instruments while the instruments try to ooze like tar around his voice. On the band's first EP, released last summer in the midst of Strokes buildup, the effect was narcotic in a bad way--lifeless compared to Is This It's jumpy ebullience. But the ensuing months have done good things for them, so that now the group sounds like masters of mood, champions of the elegantly wasted.
The French Kicks and the Mink Lungs haven't yet achieved that clarity of vision: Both bands' new albums--the Kicks' soon-to-be-released One Time Bells and the Lungs' The Better Button--show off outfits not yet finished turning over wiry guitar rock and looking for a way in, the Kicks homing in on a lean, handsome tunefulness not unlike Austin's Spoon, and the Lungs figuring Spoon already exists, so why not try anything else. Still, The Strokes didn't spring fully formed from Lou Reed's forehead (well, actually, they probably did); the extra attention may prove to be just what these young groups need to find their voices.