Review: The National – High Violet

The National - High Violet

When The National reemerged in 2010, they were primed to explode. It didn’t matter that they were coming up on their fifth album and had already passed the milestone that marked their first decade together as a band. They were, as people have often described their albums, a slow burn, or a grower, and by the time the new decade began, their fuse was ready to blow. 2007’s Boxer had changed the game for the Cincinnati fourpiece in more ways them one, turning them into prestige indie darlings, landing songs on the soundtracks of virtually every moody drama on television, and even earning them a small but memorable role in the campaign of a presidential hopeful named Barack Obama. By the time The National appeared on Jimmy Fallon in March of 2010 to officially kick off the rollout for High Violet, with a majestic performance of “Terrible Love,” it was clear they were ready to be rock stars.

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Review: The National – High Violet

The National - High Violet

At a gathering at my apartment this past Saturday, I was talking with a few guys about music and such when The National’s “Mistaken for Strangers” came up in the music rotation, prompting a story about how, at a Boston show a couple of years back, lead singer Matt Berninger downed an entire bottle of wine during the performance before proceeding to smash the bottle. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing The National live, and though that anecdote strikes up an odd image, it’s not entirely surprising. The band seems to champion that segment of folks stuck in the middle and damned to stay there, people who’ve left behind their days of chugging Keystone Light with their college career but whose daily trivialities still provoke the onset of that maddeningly irresistible urge to treat oneself to a hangover, people whose attachment to their office chair, frustration with company politics, and overexposure to ambient fluorescent lighting have initiated the slow but accelerating descent down that slippery slope toward sociopathy. And even if you’re the type to appreciate the humor that being surrounded by morons affords and can take just about everything with a boulder of salt, you don’t have to look far to find a real-life analog for The National’s protagonists, like just over the cubicle wall at the Paxil-popper in the next desk. Yeah, their songs are for that poor motherfucker. And even if you’re still in high school or college, like many readers will certainly be, listen up, friends– you might not relate now, but this is what you bastards have to look forward to.

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