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The National – First Two Pages Of Frankenstein

May 12, 2023
The National
First Two Pages Of Frankenstein

I am a fairly new fan of The National. My introduction to the group was 2019’s I Am Easy To Find. In my review of that album I said: “On paper I should be a huge The National fan. An algorithm would say so, however, their work has never resonated with me. I did not hate it – worse it bored me.” I Am Easy To Find did click for me. I then got into the Bon Iver/Aaron Dessner project Big Red Machine and of course the Taylor Swift album’s folklore and evermore. So I am in a good space to receive this new The National album.

Surfing the web it appears there are three kinds of The National fans:

  • Diehards/obsessives that like everything – kind of like how I feel about Wilco. Their opinion is this album is good, a return to form, but not in the same league as “the big three:” Alligator (2005), Boxer (2007), and High Violet (2010).
  • Snobs who believe that the only “the big three” matter. Their opinion is this album is not a disgrace to the catalog, but not essential.
  • Taylor Swift fans who are coming to the late period The National without history with the band – I count myself in this category. Their view of this album is a masterpiece. Therefore I hear this as a masterpiece.

The soundscape is a gorgeous quite storm and Matt Berninger’s vocal purr sounds great. I am still absorbed the lyrics, but I am intrigued by the wordplay and storytelling.

There are guest vocalists (Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift) on the album, but they don’t dominate like they did on I Am Easy To Find. Instead their contributions are subtle – a dash to the cocktail vs. an main ingredient. The Taylor Swift guest vocal on “The Alcott” is perfect. Although it is a bigger role than Sufjan Stevens and Phoebe Bridgers, it does not overshadow.

Lyrically, Berninger addresses adult themes that may be mistaken as mopey. I prefer to see them as candid and realistic.

I am now motivated to revisit The National’s back catalog. This is a very good album and is on my shortlist of the best of 2023 so far.


From → Music Reviews

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