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"I want to go 'gator around the warm beds of beginners",
This review is from: Alligator (Audio CD)
The title of this review is a line from the twelfth song on this album, City Middle, which is also where the album title comes from.
The best thing about The National is Matt Berninger, vocalist and lyricist. He has a deep voice, often compared to Nick Cave's but much more melodic, though hardened by years of heartbreak and nicotine addiction. His lyrics are bleak poetry, of lost loves and frank sexual admissions. For example in "Baby, We'll Be Fine", he recounts "I pull off your jeans and you spill Jack and Coke in my collar".
The guitar work between the two guitarists (one of the two sets of siblings in the band) is subtle and skilled, while not overwhelming the focal point of the band which is Berninger's unique voice.
There is some sublime string arrangement on this album too, without it being like a country fiddle type sound, or taking over the songs. The strings just add another layer to the music, and a certain beauty also.
Percussion is unusual. Often off-beat and strange rhythms, it always seems to strangely fit with the music, although a simple four beat rhythm would be much simpler. It is this added ambition which puts this record ahead of The National's eponymous debut and the EP Cherry Tree. Though I personally believe Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers is their finest hour, Alligator certainly comes close.