So I reviewed the new album by The National last night. The record is called Trouble Will Find Me and this trouble found my stereo last week. The album was released on Friday, May 17; it's the band's sixth full-lengther.
I got pretty hooked on Alligator when that was released, ducking back to the two earlier records and staying on board for Boxer. The band's audience seemed to really swell around the time of Boxer and on to 2010's High Violet, a record I wanted to like - but ultimately couldn't.
But here's the thing - even when playing Boxer and Alligator, which is never all that often these days, but even when I was first discovering this music, I just never got the fervour. I have felt a wee twinge of embarrassment for every mustard trouser-wearing, cuffs-rolled clown who proclaimed one or other of their back-to-back series of a small handful of shows in Auckland the other year to be some sort of religious experience.
If by religious experience they meant dodgy scam then perhaps there's something in it. But otherwise, I just don't get it.
People seem so excited to blurt out that the band is so compelling live, so utterly transcendent. But to me that's just a band doing its job. Being good at playing live is part of the thing; releasing great albums - that's just another part of the thing too. It used to be that we weren't so wowed by every artist that managed one or both - because so many were capable of these deeds. You just expected it. You always experienced it. It was noteworthy when someone wasn't great.
The National offers nothing anymore. They're done. Cashed up. They pretty much peaked with Alligator - that was the word-of-mouth classic; they refined it, smoothed it over and spread it out across Boxer and clutched up even more fans.
And then: flatline.
The National will live out its days reaping the unalloyed exuberance of the fan's-eye-view appraisal that will have them on some strange shelf alongside Elbow and The Verve; bands that are ultimately appalling, boring, distinctly unexciting, almost profoundly unmoving.
But hey, you have to applaud that drummer. Keeping the hi-hat at bay has allowed him one hand free to help with the smoke and mirrors.
Are you a fan of The National? Do you love the new album? Or do you not get the fuss at all?
Will you be checking out the new album, if you haven't already?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.