The National : Alligator & Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers
[Photo from Chromewaves.net]
The National are a New York band without all the trappings and baggage that seem to go along with that moniker. They are primarily another indie rock band, but their albums enjoy a mix between the raucous and the reminiscent. The sound is a far cry from the sharp riffs and post-punk beats of many of their contemporaries, opting for a more melodic, layered and ultimately more satisfying approach. They come out with their fourth album, Boxer, later on this year, but it’s definitely worth catching up with some of their older material.
Alligator was the last album they released, and most people’s (including mine) entry point. They toured along with Clap You Hands Say Yeah which was a double edged sword in terms of exposure as most people appeared for the support act and left before the National even took to the stage. Which is undoubtably a stupid thing to do, because Alligator is a fantastic record. Singer, Matt Berninger, dishes out lines somewhere between sarcasm and dead seriousness about various objects of love. The song All The Wine is a brilliant piece of narrative, built over chiming U2 guitars until a final release with Berninger crooning, ‘Nothing can touch us, my love’. Karen is another fantastic tale, a lover trying to explain his actions over rolling piano and lines like ‘It’s a common fetish, for a doting man, to ballerina on the coffee table, cock in hand’, with nary a smirk or a wink of the eye. As I said at the start, they can get explosive at times as well, Abel, Lit Up and the powerful closer Mr. November. The latter crashing around as Berninger sing-shouts ‘I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November’ throughout the chorus. The slower, less immediate songs help the album as a whole to grow on you. The more introspective songs such as Daughters of the Soho Riots and City Middle may seem inherently skippable at first, but soon provide a more interesting contrast of pace and mood.
[Photo from the AllTheWine Forum]
I picked up Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers a little later, in the Marketplace of Warwick Uni for a rather tasty £7. It begins with a much darker tone with Cardinal Song, but gets brighter towards the end of the album with songs like the playful Fashion Coat. Yet there’s also a slight country tone apparent, with slide guitar appearing several times and songs like It Never Happened, Trophy Wife and 90-Mile Water Wall displaying that typical alt-country strum and beat. Murder Me Rachel and Available are pretty much most indicative of where the National sound was heading, the former builds up into screeching violins and doesn’t stop, only barely dissolving into muffled shouts and drum rolls after a telling line, ‘Tomorrow won’t be pretty.’ It’s overall not quite as coherent as Alligator, the style of music is more varied and the production sometimes isn’t executed with the same diligence as the stronger songs.
Listen to these, and buy the albums in preparation for Boxer, which is out on May 21st.
From Alligator (2005)
The National – Karen MP3 Expired
The National – All The Wine MP3 Expired
The National – Mr. November MP3 Expired
[Buy] *Highly Recommended*
From Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
The National – Slipping Husband MP3 Expired
The National – 90-Mile Water Wall MP3 Expired
The National – Murder Me Rachel MP3 Expired