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EP Review: Walken ‘What’s Your Environment’

Brisbane rockers Walken are a difficult band to pin down. Their music ranges from shimmering, slow-burners such as latest single Unomi, to more straightforward pop-punk jams, but always manages to walk the line between humorous and serious. Their new EP, ‘What’s Your Environment’ is no exception, and manages to widen the scope of their music even further.

The release has been teased with three singles released over the last two years, with the trio recording it on and off since 2015. According to frontman Matt Cochran, the band has, “been through massive stylistic shifts and even some personnel changes since this EP was initially recorded,” adding that, “it’s amazing for us to finally release it to the world and get it out there.”

The EP opens with thick bass notes punching through a synthy, atmospheric soundscape, building for a minute before Ray Gun truly kicks in with a screaming guitar riff. As the first lyrics bleed through the noise, it becomes immediately clear this song is different to Walken’s previous efforts; Matt is unleashing a surprisingly competent rap. It’s Rage Against the Machine (complete with Tom Morello’s signature wah-wah) meets Royal Blood. The lyrics, “I don’t come in peace, I only come in my bed,” along with, “now we’re rolling up ramps like Stephen Hawking, the only difference is he’s a genius, but at least we’re WALKEN,” will surely draw a grin out of anyone, but also show the tongue in cheek nature of the band. The chorus and ending really hit hard, pumping you up and pushing you onwards. As an opener to the EP, Ray Gun keeps you on your toes, never quite certain what the next song will bring.

Eagle Eye, already a popular single about the anxieties inherent in growing up, plays it straight, balancing out the surprises to come. The song itself shows Walken doing what they do best, grungy pop-punk with clever lyrics that draw you in, encouraging you to listen closely. Driving guitars push the song along while backing vocals offer highlights and texture throughout the track. The chorus refrain of “he is real!” offers a perfectly short, catchy, counter to the lyrically dense verses, and will stick with you long after the song fades away into House on the Hills.

If you thought Walken would be content to have just one rap on this EP, you were wrong. This time, the verses are much sparser; percussive delays and gasps filling out the space between the bass and drum track, until the massive guitar riff slaps you in the face and reminds you why you’re here. One of the most interesting songs on the EP, House on the Hills closes with chopped up vocals bouncing back and forth before ending somewhat abruptly, feeling a little incomplete, but leaving you intrigued and wanting more.

Unfortunately that must wait, because up next is Even if it Kills Me. While certainly not a bad song, Even if it Kills Me (which was previously released as a single in 2015) is both more serious, and less interesting than the other songs appearing on this release, feeling a little out of place. The chorus lacks the punch of previous songs, and while it is clearly an emotional song, it just doesn’t quite reach the standards Walken have set for themselves on this EP.

This brief moment of weakness is far outshone, however, by the final track. Unomi is the highlight of this EP, and is arguably Walken’s best song to date. Built around a muted guitar line, the track takes its time to build a sombre atmosphere of longing, holding back even throughout the choruses. It’s not until three minutes in that the tension is released with a glorious guitar solo washing over the track. Even then, the band know how to pull it all back one last time to round out the EP. It’s a stunning song that only gets better with each repeat.

Ultimately, Walken’s ‘What’s Your Environment’ EP covers a wide range of musical styles, and manages to showcase their established sound of grungy pop-punk, while also pushing them outside their comfort zone. Slight missteps aside, the band have managed to craft a relatively cohesive EP that packs in something for almost everyone, without compromising what makes them great. This is one local release you can’t afford to miss.

Checkout ‘What’s Your Environment’ below.