The National

Alligator

A perfect piece of ass: The National.
A perfect piece of ass: The National.

In a rock scene overrun with emo and post-emo bands, maybe it was only a matter of time before stoic-core reared its head. Enter the National, a group of adult Brooklynites who've just released their third album of deceptively low-key rock. The guitars on Alligator veer between Smiths-ish picking and early-New Order blocks of thick chords, while the drumming is aggressive and tasty throughout. The dominant feature of he National, however, is vocalist Matt Berninger's insouciant baritone. Regardless of lyrical content, he applies the same offhand delivery to the pathetic apologies of "Baby, We'll Be Fine" ("I'm so sorry for everything…") and the swaggering boasts of "All the Wine" ("I'm put together beautifully / I'm a perfect piece of ass"). The cumulative effect of this approach is alternately humorous and numbing, sometimes within the same song. Berninger does get a bit more fired up on a few tracks, notably "Abel" and the blistering closer, "Mr. November" ("I won't fuck us over"). And it's a good thing, too, because only his literate sangfroid and these occasional bursts of fervor keep the National from being simply medio-core.

 
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