Warning: This is a music post. About The National. If you haven't listened to them, you may get bored reading this. But you should give them a listen. More than one listen, because they're one of those bands whose music you will not appreciate the first time around. Or the second time around. I think those are the best kinds of bands. The sheer greatness of the music will slowly sneak up on you until you find yourself listening to the same song for the fiftieth time, surprised to find tears streaming down your face. It's funny; some of my favorite songs of theirs are ones that I used to skip when they came up. For example, "Driver Surprise Me." When I finally started listening to it, it knocked me over. The violin part just kills me.
They have a new album coming out this spring. I've been listening to them a lot lately, especially their new songs, and I have to say that I am more excited about this new release than I've been for any other new release I can remember. They have lots of unreleased new songs that they've been playing over the past year or so, and I can't wait to see what makes the cut. I really hope "The Runaway" or "Karamazov" or whatever they're calling it these days is on the album. I was there the first time it was played in concert (I recorded it), and I think it's gorgeous. I also want to see "Blood Buzz Ohio" and "England" and "Vanderlylle Cry Baby" on there. And I can't wait to listen to the songs that we haven't heard yet. I am SO excited.
I'm also excited to see them tour the new album. Thanks to my great mom who managed to snag a ticket in the presale for me (she tries so hard for me), I'll be seeing them at Radio City Music Hall. I don't have a great seat and I'll be alone, but being there will be enough. Although I must say that I greatly prefer GA concerts to ones with assigned seats. I like having control over where I sit/stand, rather than leaving my fate up to the whims of TicketBastard. When I saw The National at Central Park, I got in line 8 hours before the concert began, was the first person in line, and therefore got the best spot (dead center, front row, directly in front of the stage). That was one of the best concerts I've been to. I could not believe how amazing the setlist was. And look how close I got to Matt:
Hee. That was during "Mr. November," which is an incredible song to see performed live. And for some reason I also love this picture I took at the concert:
I also love this one (click on it for the bigger version):
Anyway, I'm still excited for Radio City. And for the new album. Because they're brilliant.
I want to just keep reading these blurbs about The National from The Stylus Decade; Alligator and Boxer were both on their list of the top albums of the decade. Here's what they say:
51. The National
Beggars Banquet, 2005
A telegram from midnight of the 21st century, recorded in the long shadows of 2004’s “Armageddon election,” these deceptively small snapshots tell a bigger story. As rock music slumped through middle age “Alligator” felt like an affirmation and a eulogy for the energy and optimism that had sustained it since the mid fifties. The characters Matt Berninger allusively sketches are little men – and they are always men – under enormous pressure. Different songs enact different reactions from the “fuck me and make a drink” desperate lust of “Karen” through the brooding nostalgia of “Daughters of the Soho Riots” and the denial and finally despair essayed in “Baby We’ll Be Fine”; never has a song with such a title been so ironic. The song’s anti-hero details the mundane strains of his life in nightmarish detail before collapsing in on himself with the line, "I don’t know how to do this… I’m so sorry for everything.”
Rock bands don’t apologise, it’s not in their nature, but the world has become so much harder. The National sound like the previous years’ garage rock revivalists beaten down by the sheer grey weight of life itself. The slower songs have a rich warmth to them, sympathetic strings sweetening the sorrow. When they come out on the attack it is not with the petulant passions of adolescence but the suicidal swagger of men with nothing to lose. The protagonists of “All The Wine" and “Lit Up” are pretty much beat, but they sure as fuck aren’t going down without a fight. It’s defeat, but a glorious one. And there, at the end is “Mr November”. Whilst a couple of years later the band would authorize “Mr November” T-shirts emblazoned with the face of Barack Obama it seems more likely the song is loosely inspired by John Kerry; the sixties fossil, once the hero now forced to admit he doesn’t quite know what to do. The sound is like a battle raging in thick fog; opaque violence. Though their side would eventually win through this is the sound of the optimistic, utopian spirit of rock under fire.
41. The NationalThere are some great, beautiful, thoughts in there. I wish I could express myself so clearly and eloquently. I love The National, and it's wonderful to see someone else put my thoughts into words. These two albums would be on my Top 10 List of the Decade.
Beggars Banquet, 2007
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, and that counts even if, in the words of The National’s Matt Berninger, “You’re young, you’re middle class/They say it doesn’t matter.” Boxer is a quiet, desperate album, one with solemn piano chords, Berninger’s creamy baritone, and dark apartment corners and dimly lit city streets. But, as Thoreau knows, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation,” and The National’s mannered domestic drama veils — thinly — a throbbing heart thumping terribly and gushing blood through a body desperate to believe itself to be still alive. The popular fantasy of youth is the impassioned cris des coeur of On the Road and Born to Run, but its real face is revealed in this album’s miserable little byways. “Turn the light out, say good night, no thinking for a little while,” Berninger promises — or pleads — on the opener, “Fake Empire.” “Let’s not try to figure out everything at once”: This is a record not of restless adolescence but instead about what comes after. Boxer aches with loneliness; the subdued sadness of being “mistaken for strangers by your old friends/When you pass them at night beneath the silvery, silvery Citibank lights.”
This record shares little with the abrasive origins of indie rock, and one could drily observe that in 2007, after the genre had lived through its Garden State/“The O.C.”-fueled explosion, its core audience had grown up a bit and grown weary of prickliness, and that maybe, growing older, they had begun to accumulate a preference for adult responsibility over adolescent impetuousness. It’s better, though, to take The National on its own terms. Allowing Boxer to transcend its stink of middle class privilege, its scenes of young go-getters “showered and blue-blazered,” permits the listener to penetrate the record’s emotional heart.
And true, all the introspection could be dull were it not for the music’s determination to unearth these emotions. This is, after all, an album with a rhythm section as memorable as its melodies: propulsive drumming that thrums on like that small spark still flickering away inside every dull-eyed office drone. And if all that spark is saying is, “I want to hurry home to you, put on a slow dumb show for you, and crack you up,” then that brilliant dumb show of humanity is better than all the tramps born to run. Boxer is, in the end, as desperate as it is quiet, and a living dog is better than a dead lion.
I'll try and put together a playlist of some of their new songs sometime soon and post it.