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The National - Boxer (Cover Artwork)

The National

The National: BoxerBoxer (2007)
Beggar's Banquet

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:


Contributed by: GlassPipeMurderGlassPipeMurder
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I'm not sure why I keep listening to this. The more I listen, the sadder I get. I also don't know why anyone would need alcohol to drown their sorrows when there are far more effective depressants like the National that don't wage war on the liver. My first attentive encounter with Boxer came in .
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I'm not sure why I keep listening to this. The more I listen, the sadder I get. I also don't know why anyone would need alcohol to drown their sorrows when there are far more effective depressants like the National that don't wage war on the liver.

My first attentive encounter with Boxer came in late January, after laying down for a quick afternoon rest. The expected exhaustion of the first few weeks of the semester must have gotten the best of me, and I awoke as the darkness of night had descended upon my bedroom, and the opening piano chords of "Start a War" began trickling through my computer's speakers. The "shuffle" button on iTunes must have had it in for me, because as if waking up to darkness after falling asleep in daylight isn't depressing enough, having a vaguely sympathetic-sounding baritone walk you through your worst breakup like the Ghost of Christmas Past is absolutely brutal. I'm sure the circumstances that surrounded my introduction to Boxer and, subsequently, the National, were out of the ordinary (being stricken with despair and almost literally paralyzed by unprovoked feelings of hopelessness), but I would wager a kidney that there's at least someone else out there in Internetland that has found some sort of solace, or at least commiseration in Boxer.

Through the wonder of that fate-driven contrivance known as the iTunes "shuffle" option, Boxer emerged for me in an obviously unorthodox fashion. Start a War was just the beginning, though its lush arrangement and paradox of calming vibes with an often restless urgency proved to be a recurring forte for the National in Boxer. "Fake Empire" followed suit, with a cinematic piano intro and gorgeous brass-led outro that sandwich a vexingly ambiguous storyline. Arguably the most tranquil of compositions comes via "Gospel," whose meandering melody floats like the Beatles, and whose simple request of "Darling can you tie my string?" rolls off the tongue like that of a less suggestive Jim Morrison. Given such an introduction to the National that featured only the band's works most akin to audio black velvet, discovering that the band was also capable of perfecting a style of jarring post-punk in the tradition of forerunners like Joy Division and the Chameleons and de facto contemporaries like Heavens was unexpected to say the least.

For each track like "Gospel" and "Slow Show" that saunter by unassumingly, there are those like "Brainy," "Apartment Story" and "Mistaken for Strangers," the album's first single, that pack a danceable post-punk punch, without ever sacrificing the excruciatingly disconsolate overtones of the more balladic numbers. What's even more surprising, however, is how disarmingly simple many of the conventions used by the National actually are. While the layered, multi-textured arrangements mustn't be taken for granted, the plethora of subtle hooks and oddly practical lines coalesce for effectiveness, as vocalist Matt Berninger speaks more with his voice than his words. Verses like "Sometimes you get up and bake a cake or something / Sometimes you stay in bed / Sometimes you go 'la di da di da di da da' / 'Til your eyes roll back into your head" look ridiculous on paper, but within the context of the song ("Racing Like a Pro") make perfect sense.

It was the National's 2005 effort, Alligator, that first gained wide critical acclaim and served as a "breakout" of sorts for the Brooklyn ensemble. But for whatever great things have been said about Alligator, Boxer leaves it in the dust. The painstakingly arranged compositions, the heart-wrenching melodies and the implausibly simple-but-effective lyricism combine in perfect measure to craft a modern classic in the form of Boxer.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
oldgospelchoir (October 22, 2010)

This is what a perfect album sounds like

marthaplimpton (May 29, 2008)

Awesome record. Just starting listening to the National a few weeks ago. All the sudden here is a review. Wicked. I'm on a totally different end of the spectrum than this reviewer, but the music still affects me on the same level.

Torgo (May 28, 2008)

Legit. Solid review brohammer

TheMike (May 28, 2008)

I like it a lot, but some of the songs don't do anything for me. "Brainy" and "Squalor Victoria", to name a couple. "Slow Show", "Appartment Story", "Ada", and "Mistaken for Strangers" are excellent, however.

NotPatriotic (May 27, 2008)

So I just saw this band at Sasquatch. Amazing.

bolucce (May 27, 2008)

this album is an addictive listen. always puts me in a red wine kind of state.

just about to watch the doc about the making of this album, "a skin, a night". hoping it's key.

branden (May 27, 2008)

i heard about 30 seconds of this one time and decided to write it off cause the dude's voice is so ridiculous. im gonna check it out again though cause this was a very good review.

theyounginfluential (May 27, 2008)

god, that sounds exactly like my introduction to this band as well. what a fucking amazing album.

HonestAbe (May 27, 2008)

Also, my vote for best National lyrics are in "All The Wine"

I'm put together beautifully
Big wet bottle in my fist, big wet rose in my teeth
I'm perfect piece of ass
Like every Californian
So tall I take over the street, with highbeams shining on my back
A wingspan unbelievable
I'm a festival, I'm a parade

And all the wine is all for me

I'm a birthday candle in a circle of black girls
God is on my side
Cuz I'm the child bride
I'm so sorry but the motorcade will have to go around me this time
Cuz God is on my side
And I'm the child bride

...I love that shit

HonestAbe (May 27, 2008)

Man, I love this band. I have to say though that I'm partial to Alligator but everythng that they've done has been incredible. Look for a torrent of The Black Sessions 05' somehwere online and you won't be dissapointed

ollywood (May 27, 2008)

At first I was kind of dissapointed, thinking it was too slow. After the 3rd or forth listen it grew on me tremendously. I'd put it just a tad under Aligator.

I cant stand the "Squaler Victoria" song though

im_john_galt (May 27, 2008)

this taste is way out of my palate, but it is hard to argue against this album. i am glad it took you so long to review it, because it took me so long to get into it.

nocigar (May 27, 2008)

yeah, this album is fucking amazing.

SloaneDaley (May 27, 2008)

actually it wasn't that recent but still great album.

SloaneDaley (May 27, 2008)

I borrowed this album from my sister recently, and gave it a listen. I was surprised given the hype how really good it actually was I thought it would be boring indie rock.

thus_spoke_sean (May 27, 2008)

i know this is old. but jesus, this should be the lead review, this is without a doubt one of the best albums ive ever heard.

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