Album #343: The National – Boxer

  • Released: 2007
  • Origin: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  • Label: Beggars Banquet
  • Best Track: Mistaken for Strangers

I think I’ve only heard one album by The National – 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, which is probably a strange one to start with. I remembered a couple of days ago what a good song ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ is, so why not listen to Boxer, the album it came from?

Gritty, melodic and with memorable lyrics, it’s a cracker on what is, as I expected, a very strong fourth album.

‘Apartment Story’ is wonderful, sounding like something New Order would write but not in a rip-off kind of way. Perhaps even more intriguing is ‘Guest Room’, which I originally thought was all about prostitution (“where we throw money at each other and cry”) but I now suspect is simply an account of a boring, passionless relationship.

I think what stops The National being a favourite band of mine is that they are maybe a bit too precise and complete, maybe even a bit too “good” for me. I think I like post-punk a bit messier. When Public Image Ltd play ‘Poptones’ it sounds jarring and almost improvisational, then you’ve got the experimental bittiness of the likes of Swell Maps. On the other hand, there’s the gloomy simplicity of Joy Division. The National seem a bit like post-punk for a more mainstream audience. That’s not having a go at them as they write excellent songs and albums, but simply a comment on my preferences.

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