Monday, May 21, 2007

Album Review- Boxer

The National

Alligator, The National’s last effort, was a hit or miss affair. Many critics hailed it as an underrated classic, while others deemed it average or missed it altogether. With Boxer, it will be impossible for anyone to ignore or deny its status; not only is it easily the band’s best album, it’s simply one of the best of the year.

It’s no surprise the so-called “rockers” on Alligator stood out being shoved in between mostly mid-tempo songs. On Boxer, the band manages to distribute its energy evenly over twelve tracks. It still has its slow moments, but they’re more like rest stops rather than detours. They’ve also created a sort of humbled largeness with their sound without becoming overwhelming or indulgent. The string arrangements on “Squalor Victoria” play the supportive role, slowly stretched beyond each phrase over relentlessly driving tom-tom percussion.

Which leads us to Drummer Bryan Devendorf’s contribution to this album-- It cannot be understated. He has always done excellent work on the previous albums, but here he showcases his true skills. His patterns drive the music into interesting territory, while still playing the supportive role. “Brainy” finds him cramming every drum in his kit into each verse. Mostly all of the other songs benefit from his inventive rhythms.

Matt Berninger’s lyrics have always been sung in a weary, everyman tone, and Boxer show no signs of a different approach. Some lyrics actually sound ridiculous, such as on “Ada” in which Berninger sings “Ada don’t talk about reason why you don’t want to talk about reasons why you don’t want to talk.” But these clumsy, circular refrains have become characteristic of the band. It’s the sort of thing you expect from The National-- an endearing sort of weakness. This may even be what makes the band sound so humble.

From the excellent first track “Fake Empire,” to the spooky spy-riff opening of “Mistaken For Strangers,” to the beautiful, acoustic “Start A War,” Boxer is incredibly strong and consistent. Each song has something to offer, never showing any visible signs of a formula at work. Everything sounds honest, but is laced with just enough drama to make it interesting. There’s no life altering revelations here. No groundbreaking music developments. No pretentiously deep meanings to be dug up. There’s just a great album. It’s something no one will be able to ignore.

Download >>Fake Empire

Download >>Squalor Victoria

1 comment:

Barbzilla said...