May 25, 2007

Boxer-The National

Assured, mature, honest, dramatic, elegant, mysterious. These and quite a few adjectives I could use to describe "Boxer" the new opus from The National. I confess here and now that I slept on their 2005 release, the magnificent "Alligator". It always shows that you should never make an instant judgement on any piece of music. Well right now I love "Alligator" and even though "Boxer" doesn't quite hit those giddy heights, give it time maybe it will. This is a record from a band in full flight, mature and confident this isn't easy pop music or crash and burn rock. It is music to savour and get to know. If you commit to it, it will surely fill your mind and heart with strange feelings of delight and wonder.

By now you have probably heard the opening track "Fake Empire". All full of languid elegance and striking images it is a mighty fine song. And the horns are truly superb. In fact the opening quartet of songs are strikingly magnificent. "Mistaken For Strangers" and "Squalor Victoria" are songs to rumble down deep inside you and make you scream out loud their magnificent choruses (who said there are no "Mr Novembers" are on this platter). The rest of "Boxer" then resumes its stately elegance. "Slow Show" and "Green Gloves" are deep, resonant songs that get better with every listen. "Apartment Story" and "Start A War" are other songs that hit hard with me. This band has a knack for producing music that is sombre but never depressing, heartfelt but never sentimental, music that settles under your skin and won't leave. I do feel that the first half of the album is more striking than the second (''Guest Room" is probably the only song not to hit a chord so far), but as with "Alligator" I am sure that every song will slowly attach itself to me. Having said that "Racing Like A Pro" (featuring Sufjan Stevens on piano as does "Ada") is already a song that I enjoy immensely. The band's playing is quite assured on this album, with Bryan Devendorf's drumming a definite highlight. However the greatest weapon The National have is the glorious, magnificent voice of Matt Berninger. His baritone voice is like an instrument in itself. Deep and powerful it's beauty can not be denied. Also the orchestrations by Clogs' Padma Newsome holds all the compositions together beautifully. "Boxer" is like a fine bottle of red wine, great to drink now or tomorrow, but it will probably get even better with age.

Something to savour lyrically are the wonderful images contained in many of the songs. Here are a few I am really enjoying-
Tiptoe through our shiny city with our diamond slippers on
Showered and blue-blazered, fill yourself with quarters
You know I keep your fingerprints in a pink folder in the middle of my table
Underline everything, I’m a professional in my beloved white shirt
You could drive a car through my head in five minutes from one side of it to the other
One time you were a glowing young ruffian
Stand inside an empty tuxedo with grapes in my mouth

MP3: Fake Empire
MP3: Mistaken For Strangers
MP3: Slow Show


  • At May 25, 2007 , Anonymous James said...

    Nice review Wayne. Although I'm partial to 'The Boxer' over 'Alligator', both are excellent albums and deserve as much attention as possible so we get a tour!!!


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