The National – Boxer

By on Saturday, 19th May 2007 at 10:12 pm
 

The National - BoxerThe National release their fourth full length album tomorrow, following on from their previous epic “Alligator” which was a staple of many critics best of 2005 lists. Morose, dark and epic it was innovative and not afraid to be different, and they’ve carried on from Alligators brilliance with their new album, “Boxer“.

“Boxer” is a mixed bag of songs. Whilst all excellent, it was inevitable that the songs couldn’t quite match the raw emotion that “Alligator” had at times (see “Mr. November” and “Abel”), instead they’ve grown musically and as song writers, creating multilayered songs that would put many artists to shame. The collection seems to be a bit more upbeat than previous albums, however they now have a new range of problems: Alligator it was debauched affairs, on Boxer its dealing with life on the road and finding stable relationships.

Opening with the dreamy, soothing “Fake Empire” with its oblique lyrics and multi layered instrumentation, we immediately feel right at home with old friends, whilst also being relatively chart friendly. “Mistaken for Strangers” could pass for Interpol, was it not for Matt Berninger’s deep, gravelly voice that makes their sound so unique and so soothing.

Driving drums with military precision is the order of the day with “Squalor Victoria“, initially one of my least favourite tracks is definitely a grower. At first I found Matt’s voice a bit too dreary and repetitive, however the subtle differences are what make the song tick and drive it along so ably.

Apartment Story” has a key sense of urgency to it, ‘We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us / do whatever the TV tells us’, perhaps dealing with the perceived downward spiral of society, brought about by their extensive touring.

My favourite combination of songs on the album “Start a War” and “Guest Room” are both immediately memorable, but reward repeated listening. “Start a War” starts off slowly and steadily, before going over the crest of the hill to an epic soundscape with violins and more intricate sounds.

Last song on the album “Gospel” is one of their most epic, dreary and impressive. I first heard it on the train, rain pouring down the windows, grey skies. The song fits perfectly, and is one of their most melancholic, a perfect close to the album.

So, overall, an impressive album from The National, and one that with “Alligator” looks set to define their career. It’ll be interesting to see how the songs develop when played live, however everything points to an amazing year for The National, and one that will be featured on many end of year “best of’s”,

However, its definitely not one for a summer day at the festivals – more of one for a winters evening spent curled up with an old classic by the fire.

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