on 18 May 2006
I heard about The National a couple of months ago by chance through the commercial success of their most recent album Alligator. It's a fantastic album and if you haven't heard of them I suggest that one first. Don't get me wrong though, I highly recommend this album also. I went out of my way to track down what is actually a longer back catalogue than I'm proud of admitting I missed first time around and I feel really happy I did.
This album is at moments stronger than the recent stoof, but not as refined and honed, often less confident and certainly slower in places. It's still the same prettyful double guitars with the harrowing and very affecting lyrics, it's a fantastic album, with a few unexpected twists as I found so completely affirming about Alligator.
I feel guilty in this bias, had I heard this album first it may well have affected me more than Alligator. Even so, this is a band that grows in my esteem the further I delve, with a criminally overlooked talent which is only now starting to take off.
Overall I'd suggest this as an almost certainly reliable purchase if you're into rawk or indie with affecting lyricism and a very distinctive sound, but it might be worth checking out the band's more recent stoof purely on the strength that it's more accessible on the first few listens, it's a purchase I still have on a good deal of the time though...
on 11 March 2009
Like the previous two reviewers, I tracked down this debut album by The National after having enjoyed Boxer and Alligator so much. I was unsure how it would match up to those stunning subsequent recordings, but wasn't disappointed in the slightest. There are differences - this album has a slower pace to it, and is more raw, but the quality of the tracks for me is similar to the latter releases. Berninger's lyrics are mysterious as ever, and his voice soars above the beautifully balanced instrumentation.
Stand-out songs: Pay for Me, Theory of the Crows, American Mary, Cold Girl Fever, The Perfect Song.
on 29 March 2008
I explored the National's back catalogue because I enjoyed Alligator & Boxer so much. This album is truly excellent, and stands up well to their later work. I think one of the best things about the National's music is their amazing lyrics - complex, bittersweet, emotional without going anywhere near slushy. I thought this album was as accessible as Alligator & Boxer, so even if you're new to the National then give it a go.
By the way, they are great live. Nothing like I imagined from their albums - the lead singer is truly manic on stage. Catch them if you can.