[sic] Magazine

The National – Boxer

The National
Beggars Banquet
Review by Jamie Milton


According to Paul Banks (Interpol), “New York cares”, but the tales that The National seem to create in `Boxer’ paint a somewhat different picture of the big apple. Most likely tales about being away from New York and losing touch with friends (`Green Gloves’ contains the lyrics “Falling out of touch with all my/friends are somewhere getting wasted/ hope they’re staying glued together/ I have arms for them”, which are some of the most significant lyrics in the record). Matt Berninger’s soothing yet “very, very frightening” vocals are the setting for the record, giving everything else something to stand on, and create on. The lyrics that he puts across are quite simply, incomparable.

Similar to the first time you hear The Smiths, you don’t recall hearing anything so subtle, anything that tells such a realistic tale of some modern day touches. The first lines in `Boxer’ tell their own story, and win the listener over instantly with their charm, “Stay out super late tonight/ picking apples, making pies/ put a little something in our lemonade and take it with us” manage to put an apt image into your head, rebellion. And Berninger instantly becomes expert, sharp and most notably, cool.

When listening to `Boxer’ you can sometimes feel the need to become Berninger. All his tales of drunken mistakes, the honesty that he portrays in his lyrics, he seems like a fictional character, someone that you’d dream of being. Almost an idol in his own right. But this record isn’t all about his talent. Rarely is an album so easy to listen to, so easy to understand, so comforting. Unlike the previous record, The National seem at home here, more at rest than you might be when you first hear it all. Most songs contain driven piano and precise instrumentation but `Mistaken For Strangers’ keeps all of this while rocking out at the same time, it’s quite possibly the strongest track out of all 12.

However `Slow Show’ may well come through as the piece of music that jumps itself higher than the rest, a simple tale of mistake suddenly turns into a love song with a change of chords as well as theme, “You know I dreamed about you/ for twenty-nine years before I saw you” manages to do more to you than other lyrics in the song, being something that a listener who has experienced love could fully relate to. Previously mentioned opener `Fake Empire’ does the same, it contains a charm in it which could make itself likable to anybody if they tried hard enough.

In the second half of the record, it drifts off into its own world, with the possibility of making the listener feel out of place. But this only means that the listener has more to discover. Classical guitar flows beautifully in `Ada’ and the delicate touch of `Gospel’, which closes the record, sums up that this is a personal collection of songs which all blend with each other to create an album of sophisticated importance, something to merit forever. Sure the kids won’t find much in it, but just unveil it to them when they’ve discovered love, tuxedos and wine.