The National: High Violet (4AD)

The National: Runaway
The National: High Violet (4AD)

Frankly, I want to like the National more, but their almost willfully/arty obscurantism is often off-putting. The DVD which came with their extended EP A Skin/A Night, The Virginia EP seemed like an attempt at creating depth in something which was inherently ordinary.

And I feel a little the same about this album: the all-in production attempts to carry the weaker material and the emotionally distant delivery by Matt Berninger lets the stronger material slip away into a kind of studied ennui.

A piano ballad as simple as Little Faith gets lost in the morass of drums and guitars and strings which are added; and distorted guitars do not necessarily make for a sense of discomfort. Sometimes (as on Afraid of Everyone) they are just annoying. At times you sense that in their attempt to distance their inherent musicality from the whole Coldplay/U2 ballad/alt.rock end of the spectrum (see Sorrow) they have fled too far in the other direction.

Yet every now and again here some terrific songs peek out (Lemonworld, Runaway, the mysterious Conversation 16, the languid England) almost tentatively, and at that point I -- and maybe you? -- like the National more. 

Share It

Your Comments

Tim - Jun 22, 2010

Sounds like I like The National more than you Graham but was nevertheless a bit disappointed with this after the wonderful "Boxer". The production seems a bit muddy too. I trust that despite your misgivings you would agree the Dessner bothers did a pretty nice job selecting tunes for"Dark Was the Night"

Jeremy - Jun 23, 2010

So disappointing after previous albums. Assumed that, even with the quality of The Virginia EP and their contributions to Dark Was The Night, they would have something up their sleeve for this album. But the problem is mostly in the mix and orchestration isn't it. Agree with Graham that sometimes a song will rise above the murk (eg Bloodbuzz, England), but mostly they're just buried. However if they return to NZ, I'll be first in line - if their 2008 show was anything to go by then they will breathe life into these songs on-stage.

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column... > Read more

Kong Fooey: Final Destination (Bella Rose)

Kong Fooey: Final Destination (Bella Rose)

In a cover which amusingly references that of Elvis' debut album (and by association the Clash's London Calling which did the same), this Auckland outfit deliver an enjoyable fusion of hip-hop, old... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: What's That You're Doing? (1982)

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: What's That You're Doing? (1982)

The reissue of Paul McCartney albums continued recently with expanded editions of his largely unloved albums from the early Eighties, Tug of War ('82) and Pipes of Peace ('83). At the time they... > Read more

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill: Riding Strange Horses (Echo Beach/Yellow)

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill: Riding Strange Horses (Echo Beach/Yellow)

Those who know their spaghetti westerns and love a bit of dubbery will welcome this new installment from the Swiss band Spencer/Hill (aka bassist Marcel Stalder, guitarist Markus Meier, keyboard... > Read more