Review/Running Diary – The National – Trouble Will Find Me

10 May

Well, here we are, album number 6.  It’s hard to believe they’re this far into their career now.  But, of course, I’m one of those people who hope they’ll be around for at least 60 more.  Especially if they’re of the same quality as the last three.  Does Trouble Will Find Me stack up?  Let’s find out!

Let’s lay some groundwork.  I heard “Demons” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and that’s about it.  I didn’t listen to the live performances or any other songs that came out, and by the time we got to this evening, I barely remembered how those two songs even went.  I was ready for a cold listen.  Which was good, because I had been pretty underwhelmed by “Demons” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, if I’m being perfectly honest.

So, here we are, with the full album.  You’re getting a running diary style from me today, so bare with some potential jumpiness.  First thing we hear is “I Should Live in Salt” and instantly I’m doomed to love this album.  That’s what I would have liked to have heard as a lead single.  It was familiar, melodic, gorgeous National, and it then segued marvelously into “Demons”, which in turn went wonderfully into “Don’t Swallow the Cap”.  Maybe on their own they weren’t fantastic songs, but nestled in the safety of the album in full, and we’ve got three winners out of three so far.

“Fireproof” features some of those biting lyrics of half-love half-hate.  “You’re fireproof/nothing breaks your heart/you’re fireproof/it’s just the way you are/You’re fireproof/It’s what you always say/You’re fireproof/I wish I was that way”  Absolutely gorgeous little number.

Now, it’s been hard for me to have not heard “Sea of Love” already, and I can’t wait to watch the video for it as soon as I’m able, but on first listen, it’s already making me smile.  Some of those really bombastic drum rolls of The National old, plus a name-check to the album.  I’m always a sucker for songs that the album title is drawn from.  This also marks the second song on the album to feature some excellent backing vocals as the music crescendos to an abrupt close.  Really powerful, exciting stuff.

“Heavenfaced” may have been the first song on the album I wasn’t over the moon about.  Not that it was bad, mind you, but it was one of those National ballads that I’m getting ever so slightly tired of.  Regardless, lyrically, it was quite compelling.

Here we go, remote alcohol references are more than welcome, Mr. Berninger, and “This Is the Last Time” features not only Tylenol and beer, but also lyrics about the way we used to be.  Or he and the person he’s singing to, at least.  Something I always appreciate out of his songwriting.  “Jenny I’m in trouble/I can’t get these though out of me/Jenny I’m seeing double….” and more violins, oh yes.  That was certainly a song that improved exponentially as it reached finish.

“Graceless” features some drums very reminiscent of “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, which is a positive, along with some faith-crisis-type lyrics, together you’ve got quite a power ballad on your hands.  “There’s a science to walking through windows without you?”  Not sure what that lyric was, I’m curious as hell to find out, though.

Then you get a song with some of those deep, rich baritone vocals that Berninger is best at.  Mixed in, solitary cymbal crashes.  It just feels like it’s growing towards something big, but what we get is a somber, crushing chorus.  “It will be summer in Dallas before you realize that I will never be what you want me to be” gets a very unprofessional writing, “GUH!” from me.  “Slipped” is getting the call for early favorite from the album.

“I Need My Girl” has quite a classic love song element to it, with this really great little plucky guitar riff and some booming toms.  Which is, of course, something that I have loved a great deal about past National love songs (“Slow Show”).  But, a National love song, much like the aforementioned “Slow Show” isn’t all roses, and this is certainly a bittersweet little number.

Alright, with three tracks to go, I’m ready to say it.  This album is way better than High Violet.  Is this my first listen?  Yeah.  But, I don’t care, I’m writing words on the Internet and have a few glasses of wine in me, I call ’em as I see ’em. And right as I say this we get to a second kinda just there song.  Oh well, I’ll take two 7/10 songs out of 13 8/10 or higher tracks any time.  “Humiliation” isn’t a bad song, it just sounds pretty derivative of a lot of numbers by The National that have come before it.  That’s not a knock, per say, but I’ve been pretty happy with how fresh this album has felt up until now, while being familiar.  This is too much familiarity, but oooh is it dark and moody.

I’m also not overly fond of “Pink Rabbits”, except for the excellent lyrics.  I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Berninger fan when it comes to lyrics, but the various analogies he uses to show how invisible he is are fairly unique and a little goofy, but quite illustrative of the point.

And finally, “Hard to Find”.  Yet another ballad in an entire sea of them.  Was this exactly what I was afraid of this album being? Yes.  Does it bother me? Surprisingly…no.  I’m so happy with this album, it’s hard to really put it into words.  I love the National more than most bands, except for 6 or 7. As much of a lover of music as I am, that’s quite a lot of love.  They have made four albums in a row now that I count among my all time favorites.  I’m disappointed that they’re not the rock band they once were, but I can definitely appreciate this mature, loungey rock thing they’ve got going on today.

This album is a nice one for fans and newbies alike. And newbies there will be.  This is the now or never time for The National, really.  Headlining Lollapalooza is a pretty intense little thing.  They’ve got the catalog to back it up, though, and I think they’ll see quite a rise in listener-ship with this album.  Not that there’s a radio hit, here,but critics are going to eat this up.

Quite emphatic, deliriously happy 9/10.

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