June 22, 2007


The National Play Nation's Capital (NPR.org, June 20, 2007, All Songs Considered)

The National make thoughtful, mostly melancholy rock in the spirit of Joy Division or Leonard Cohen, with singer Matt Berninger's warm baritone voice set against deftly orchestrated instrumentation that's as epic as it is intimate. Hear the group recorded live in concert from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club.

You can get an MP3 of the show here.

Suddenly, The National finds a whole new world of fans (Jonathan Perry, June 22, 2007, The Boston Globe)

Alligators are hard to ignore. In the case of the National, a quintet comprising two sets of brothers and a college friend who moved from Cincinnati to Brooklyn to play bitterly bemused, soul-ravaged songs about dreams and failure, an album named for that carnivorous reptile is what got the group noticed -- finally -- after six years of sulking in the shadows.

The National is one of the hottest bands on the road right now, having sold out just about every show it's played. Its new album, "Boxer," was leaked to fans over the Internet well before its official May release date -- a sure sign of digital-age rock stardom -- and has been getting rave reviews. As of this week, the disc remains in the Top 20 on Billboard's independent albums chart.

Hard to believe that this is the same group that only two years ago was playing to indifferent audiences in all but empty rooms. In a sense, the success of the National's current tour -- which returns to the Middle East tonight for the second of a pair of, yes, sold-out shows -- has as much to do with a long-delayed reaction to its 2005 disc, "Alligator," as it does a reception for the equally terrific "Boxer." The National represents the inverse of the typical pop universe, where gratification is often instant and fleeting: a late-blooming band of 30-somethings that continues to blossom and grow its audience.

Let's backtrack: "An underground band that has a loyal but small following" is what National frontman Matt Berninger once imagined his band's fate to be, after it made a pair of superb but scarcely heard albums for a small French imprint. But the darkly decadent murk and tug of the National's sound, bejeweled with Berninger's sybaritic baritone and rueful reflections on anxiety, desire, and regret, did catch the ear of the New York indie label Beggars Banquet . It scooped up the band, gave it creative carte blanche, and released "Alligator" without having heard one note of the work beforehand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 22, 2007 12:00 AM
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