Friday, September 21, 2012

The National: High Violet (2011)

"It's a terrible love / That I'm walking with spiders," begins the first line of this album. You can kvetch all you want about this kind of melodrama, but I don't have to try too hard to imagine Dylan singing the same words. Besides, like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released six months later, this album is all about the melodrama. The images here, many of which come straight out of the Old Testament, are almost apocalyptic: oceans, floods, spiders, zombies, oceans and floods again, swarms of bees, "Manhattan valleys of the dead." The exaggerated grandiosity of the like is such that I'm finally convinced that Berninger has a sense of humor about his problems. The songs here are also far more universal than anything they've written, except possibly "Fake Empire." As a grad student, I love "I still owe money to the money to the money I owe." Most often, it's the simple quips that hit the hardest: "I don't wanna get over you," "Little voices swallowing my soul soul soul," lines which don't receive their profundity until Berninger's repeated them ad infinitum, turning them into whatever the pomo Brooklynite equivalent of a mantra is, which is probably still mantra. It's so easy to charge bands with crimes of pomposity, in part because it's often true. But pomposity done right can be downright beautiful. This, folks, is pomposity done right.


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