1-Down: The National

My relationship with Ohio’s double brother band The National has been up and down. I fell in love with “Mr. November” when I heard it on the radio, but only liked half of Alligator. At first I disliked Boxer but then really, really warmed to it.

Then, about a year ago, I saw them live at the Electric Factory. Awful. To be fair, the Electric Factory is a poor choice of venue for their postured maudlin sound, but it was by far the worst concert I saw in 2009. “Limp” is the only way I can think to describe their show. My brother and I, in an attempt to salvage their catalog for ourselves, agreed to pretend that we had never gone to see that show. “The National? Like their albums, but never had the chance to see them live. What was I doing on May 29, 2009, you say? Before I answer that question, let me show you something in this dark alley.” That’s the lengths we’d go to to not think about that show: coldblooded murder.

But the lead single from their new album, “Bloodbuzz, Ohio,” brought it back in a Vietnam flashback. “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe” is the best lyric. So topical! So good! Let me show myself something in this dark alley [gunshot].

The rest of High Violet is better. But not by much. And the sound is so well-worn that I’m not sure I’d notice if you subbed one of their songs from a previous album. Maybe it’ll grow on me like Boxer did, but, really, at this point, why would I let it?

But hey. “Afraid of Everyone” is a good song. Neat guitar sound. I dig. Maybe I should see them live someday…

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5 Responses to 1-Down: The National

  1. Trent W says:


    Subjectivity called. It said you were absolutely, hands-down, without-a-doubt the least adept album reviewer that ever was. It cited the following sources in support of this truism:


    Snark also called repeatedly but couldn’t get through, what with all the pretense jamming the lines. It emailed later to note that its tried-and-true methods are still the most effective. No need to get too inventive, it said. (And yes, Hyphenation sent a fax alert about my overdrafts.)

    With that said, I too was slow to warm to Boxer and have a similar initial reaction to High Violet. However, I disagree that the new album is just more of the same. If not the songwriting or playing, the production is markedly different.

    And if someone inserts a [gunshot] on NoiseNarcs.com and no one’s there to read it…?


    • David G says:

      Ha. It’s an okay album. I’ll keep listening to it. (And yes, the production is different: but the overall sound is pretty much the same.) But, really, that lyric is unforgivable. Can you imagine the number of “so true” comments it caused among NPR-listening dickbags?

      Also, who writes a letter to tell someone about a phone call?

      • Trent W says:

        “… emailed later…”

        Because, you know, there were no open lines.

        • material lives says:

          I really like the album, but I haven’t spent much time with the others. So either there’s something in this one, lyrically, sonically, etc. that gripped me, or it is a function of my desire to have unobstrusive music playing while at work, which this definitely is.

  2. materiallives says:

    also, “lemonworld” is amazing.

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