The National: Boxer

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Albums  The National 

Written By:

Amber Clements

19th May 2007
At 11:12 GMT

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It's that favourite hooded top you have had in your wardrobe for at least ten years. When first bought it was just nice.. and now it has simply become a part of you that you could never be without.

From first listen you find yourself quietly entranced and teased by the subtle beauty and intensity of each track, with every further hour that you spend with "Boxer" you discover another dark diamond of lyrical genius or a spellbinding musical moment that holds your senses captive. Quite simply The National's magnificent "Boxer" has become my favourite hooded top and from now on I will not be without it.

For all new comers to The National, the Brooklyn based five piece band consists of two sets of brothers, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf and Scott Devendorf, held together by lead vocalist Matt Berninger. The band found critical acclaim and mainstream success with their third and previous album "Alligator" in 2005. Coming up with a comparable fourth album was a feat that all band members were dreading. Many reports tell of lonely hours falling in to days spent in the musical dark holes of confusion during the creation process of "Boxer". Luckily for us The (very unassuming) National has born to us a new baby to be proud of on so many levels.

"Boxer" is officially more subdued than their previous album "Alligator", but this is not to "Boxer's" detriment, in its own beauty it is wilfully thought provoking and incredibly complex. You can't help but relate to pretty much every track in some way or another. They talk in a metaphoric language that can be interpreted on the shallow and the deep.

The opening track "Fake Empire" masters the art of the gentle build, starting with a soft, minimalist-tinged piano and building into a gripping one chord bass medley accompanied with embellished haunting sounds of the horn. We are at the same time treated to Beringer's rambling almost day dream like lyrics as he talks of picking apples and making pies whilst being "half awake in our fake empire" before they "tip-toe through our shiny city with our diamond slippers on". As with most of The National's lyrics, we are left with a sense of ambiguity, wondering whether his "Fake Empire" and "Shiny City" are dreams, political comments or something far more personal.

With nearly all of the tracks you get a sense of loss and detachment as they are fathoming life's relationships and questions. In "Brainy" Beringer tells us he keeps "your fingerprints in a pink folder in the middle of my table" as he is "dragging around from the end of your coat". Lyrics that conjure up a sadness of dissatisfaction and frustration. Joined by Regina Spektor for some luscious harmonies "Green Gloves" reminisces to the old days with lyrics metaphoric and lonely his "friends are all somewhere getting wasted hope they all stay glued together I have arms for them". With a strong sense of alienation coming across, you get the feeling that these five have been on the road a fair while and are missing everything that equates normality, they are craving not the celebrity cocktails, but the real life and friends that they once knew.

"Start a War" lashes out determined at a partner who does not want to acknowledge and face problems, whilst "Slow Show" accepts defeat and begs at a chance to start again entreating us with one of the most moving lines in the whole album "I have missed you twenty nine years before I met you".

Matt Berninger's harrowing, baritone vocals weave into your mind like an old slow rolling river, it gently turns over ancient worn out pebbles and on its way reveals rare snippets of beauty time and time again. The way he provides deep melancholy along side refreshing realism is something non comparable. This contrasted softly with the melody of piano, guitar and bass and laced with delicious sprinklings of orchestral bliss make "Boxer" stand out as something really special.

In a day and age where we are meant to praise artists who can as much sing as speak with lyrics containing classroom chat that could be better pronounced by your average four year old. We should all hail 'The National' for granting not only our ears with rich depth, our minds with intrigue but our hearts with a rosy warm feeling.

I guarantee. You will listen to 'Boxer' today and you will still be listening to it ten years from now while wearing that old hooded top you should have thrown out ages ago.

Rating:  9 / 10

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