more catch-up: The National
The National, Alligator - "I'll put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile," sings Matt Derninger on "Baby, We'll Be Fine," and that one line sums up why I have trouble taking the National seriously. See, because he has a deep voice and he's singing gravely about covering up his unhappiness with fashionable dress and false cheer. Oh boy. I love my bass-vocal balladeers as much as the next guy (especially if they're the Tindersticks), but there's only so much singing of disappointing nights of drinking and unrewarding sex before I start snickering. (cf. the Tindersticks again, who know that a leavening duet or two always helps.) By the time we get to penultimate track "City Middle" and Derninger says "I feel just like Tennessee Williams," it's hard to keep a straight face. Dude could just quit drinking and get a job, you know.
The National are, however, an accomplished band, the rare unit in which every player seems to be listening to the other and thinking carefully about where the rhythms and melodic lines go. These are well-arranged songs, even without the occasional strings and woodwinds, denser than standard indie-rock. Opening duo "Secret Meeting" and "Karen" are particularly rousing, as is closer "Mr. November." Here Derninger pulls back a bit on the unhappiness: "I wouldn't go out alone into America" is a clever line, succinctly stating the New Yorker's habitual fear of fly-over country. The National sounds better when you're not paying close attention and can groove on the gravitas: close listening reveals an accomplished band that could stand to cheer the fuck up on occasion. They probably keep Livejournals too.