Sunday, November 24, 2013


The following post makes a number of statements I couldn’t be bothered verifying (Feel free to look it up. You can use that Internets thingy.) plus some gratuitous tangents.

Well it was about time I got something by these guys.  Lately I’ve been getting stuff by bands just before they move from hipster level to a wider degree of acceptance.  So get ready for the National to go, well, national.

Just one issue, though. The music.

The singer has a deep voice and tends toward a monotonous almost-mumble a la early Michael Stipe (ah but REM played faster, and played guitars), so he sounds a bit too serious, even when he’s trying to be funny. And the lyrics are a little too serious, too. So they come across kind of adolescent in their concerns and level of self absorption/pity, thus risking derision from us older folks who just don’t have the time anymore. And yet they’ve been around for a while, and must be pushing thirty.

There aren’t many melodies per se. There are portentous chord changes and organ/synth swells than can occasionally get you all choked up.  But it’s all too samey samey, and I’m not tasting, as Lydia would say, the complex flavors yet. It needs more sauce. And guitars.

So no matter how many more times I listen, it only achieves a certain level of intensity before leveling off. Which makes me want to clunk their heads together a la Moe Howard, and tell them to just cheer up.

On a side note, these guys remind me of Interpol, who my son beat me to earlier this year. I was on the verge of making fun of them until I heard the National.

You didn’t ask but Interpol, in turn, reminds me of Joy Division. This has been pointed out to them, and I  understand the comparison pisses them off. But as xgau said, they should have taken it as a compliment. At least you knew Ian Curtis meant business - hanging himself at age 20(?).  

Interpol, however, wear ties and tend to, like the National (remember the National? This is a post about the National.) go on and on about their misery. But slightly watered down Joy Division still sounds pretty great, so I only complain about it towards the end of Turn Off the Bright Lights, where they begin to sound like A Flock of Seagulls off their meds.

I have a dream (more like a passing fancy, really) that they all get together to form a supergroup: Joy Division for their sincere misery ("Transmission"), A Flock of Seagulls for the melody ("Transfer Affection"), Interpol for the guitars ("New York Cares") and the National for the dramatic swells ("England"). This band would make an album that would be nice and depressing but wouldn’t make me giggle, except in all the right places.

But the National on their own lonesome? B-

At least that’s what I thought after listening only on an iPad. But then I play it on my desktop and it comes alive! Instead of sludge, I now hear crucial detail. Instead of mumbling, I now hear nuance and emotion. And drums! Bravo. B+

When to Play It: Morning, but only if you’re wide awake.  (Oh, and “England” works great before a 5k run.)
When NOT to Play It: When you’re in a great mood.

2013 So Far:
1. Celebration Rock, The Japandroids
2. Lonerism, Tame Impala
3. Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd
4. Alien Lanes, Guided By Voices
5. Copper Blue, Sugar
6. The Creek Drank the Cradle, Iron & Wine
7. Present Tense, Shoes
8. High Violet, The National
9. Pleasures of the Harbor, Phil Ochs
10. Tongue Twister, Shoes

You notice above how Sugar is just getting no respect at all?  Is it because there’s so much of it it feels like work to put it on? Sorry Bob!

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