NOTICE: This review is ridiculous. I must have been drunk. You have been warned.
Statement made: The National can do no wrong.
I already knew this entering my first couple listens to High Violet, so I spent part of the time focusing on snippets of music that could be thought of as annoying. This proved to be very difficult. Matt Berninger's voice is one of the most soothing, and likable in music today, and his backing band is about as non offensive as you can get. How can they possibly make a terrible album?
Attempting to answer this question seemed more interesting than writing a traditional review. Digging deep to find anything annoying on High Violet, I turned to the concept of repetition. At the end of,"Afraid of Everyone", Matt repeats the word "soul" 32 times in 21 seconds. If he increases the count to 198, stretched out over four minutes, this would be our first annoying song. Just to drill the repetition in the ground, the word "do" is repeated 43 times in five minutes on "Lemonworld." Multiply that amount by six, shorten the song by 51 seconds, and there is our second annoying song.
Now that we have two annoying songs, we need to throw in a couple off the wall songs, mixed with some offensive tunes, then we're nearing a potentially terrible album.
Mock song list, The National: Fifth Reich, due in early 2012.
1. Bomb California
2. Guess Who Farted?
3. Hide the Duke
4. Soul Soul Soul Soul
5. Fifth Reich
6. Do Do Do Do Do Do Do Do Do Do
7. The Pope is My Eskimo Brother
8. Flip Flop
9. Bitches Ain't Shit
10. Is Your Mother Single?
11. Guess Who Farted Resolve
While the idea of band members switching instruments is not new, "Flip Flop" misses the most, and proves that Matt Berninger is indeed human. To be frank, he is a terrible drummer. I've heard it's because he keeps one drum stick clinched in both hands close to his face with his eyes closed. It's tough to keep a beat with one stick.
"Hide the Duke," showcases Matt breaking into his girlfriend's apartment hoping to catch her cheating, and his thought process when he finds out she is not home.
The most riveting song on the album is a story about lifelong enemies who become friends due to unusual circumstances. The moral of "The Pope Is My Eskimo Brother" is how petty differences can create misunderstandings, which can be overcome by a tight bond.
Then there is song number two, "Guess Who Farted?" The National really take a risk with this track, but I don't think they needed twelve minutes to get their point across. The Resolve concluding the album ends up being one of the most interesting song in the their catalog, and displays this song is more than just hot air. Who would have thought that the booming uncorked symphony wouldn't belong to the dreamy baritone of Matt Berninger, but the drummer Bryan Devendorf, who showed his diverse musical ability. Even more surprising was how the twins production was completely opposite, and makes me wonder if one might be a vegetarian?
Overall, 5th Reich is probably the National's weakest effort to date, but hey, it's the National.
Back to reality, it's impressive High Violet holds up compared to Alligator and Boxer. Everyone's favorite "Runaway" is a bit too repetitive to classify as one of their best, while "England" and "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" stand out as brilliant. Even though I haven't a clue what "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" actually means, I still can't help but sing along each time I hear it.
A bit on the sad side though is that High Violet marks the second straight album without Matt screaming. This means we may never get another "Abel" or "Available." The band also seems to have matured past the point of using curse words (fucking bullshit), which means we may never get another "Karen" or "Mr. November."
One small complaint is that they only have one rock song on High Violet, and it's one of the worst songs on the album. "Terrible Love" is their only attempt at making an up tempo high energy song, as there is literally no heavy guitars after this opening track.
The National is never going to make an album near the quality of 5th Reich, nor does it appear they will ever make an album as good as Alligator. Their next album will still be great, and will end up near the top of every 2012 top albums of the year list, just like High Violet will be near the top of the same lists this year. It's the fucking National after all, they can do no wrong.