The National: High Violet (4AD)

 |   |  <1 min read

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

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5: The Motown Years (Motown/Universal)

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5: The Motown Years (Motown/Universal)

Presumably scheduled for the Motown 50th anniversary rather than Recent Events, this three-disc collection soaks up 32 tracks of Michael Jackson with the 5, and on the third disc 16 outings under... > Read more

Mark Knopfler: Privateering (Mercury)

Mark Knopfler: Privateering (Mercury)

Be interesting to know how many of the 30 million who bought Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms could name singer-guitarist Mark Knopfler's previous album (Get Lucky and not bad, since you ask).... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Choban Elektrik; Choban Elektrik (CDBY)

Choban Elektrik; Choban Elektrik (CDBY)

Among the more irritating people on the planet are those who ask you if you've heard such'n'such a band (usually utterly obscure, not available to hear on Spotify or buy through some on-line... > Read more

Richard's slightly Spanish paella thing with chorizo sausages

Richard's slightly Spanish paella thing with chorizo sausages

Richard admits that he may have seen something like this in "weekend magazine" supplement, but he's tampered with it a little until it is now perfect -- or at least to his taste.... > Read more