The National
Alligator


4.5
superb

Review

by JAD USER (11 Reviews)
August 29th, 2007 | 20 replies | 3,804 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The National's 2005 effort remains a truly special record.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

Reviewers have a tough time describing The National. Many of their songs are subdued yet far from mellow. Their singer drops lyrics that seem to make no sense but are utterly poetic at the same time. They’re a post-punk band that doesn’t sound like Joy Division or Gang of Four; even that comparison isn’t true because, in the end, The National aren’t even really a post-punk band. Because of all this they’ve been tagged with certain clichés: they’re a grower, they’re melancholic (singer and lyricist Matt Berninger has repeatedly denied the latter.) These tags are true, but only to a certain extent. They are a grower, and yet all their albums sound great on the first spin, increasing with each subsequent one. Their breakthrough effort Alligator remains a perfect summation of their sound. It's both gorgeous and wiry, original yet familiar, at times both beautiful and harsh.

Berninger has soaked up the most acclaim of all the band members for his fascinating lyrics and arresting baritone, but the rest of the band are truly special as well. Guitarists Aaron and Bryce Desnner are both classically trained, and have toured with the likes of The Bang on a Can All-stars and Phillip Glass. Fortunately, they choose not to manifest their obvious pedigree and talent with over the top soloing, but instead with dynamic and unusual riffs and chords that pepper tracks like “Secret Meeting” and “Looking For Astronauts”. The bands rhythm section (also composed of two brothers: Bryan and Scott Devendorf on drums and bass respectively) is also surprisingly powerful, with Bryan’s dynamic drumming giving the band’s songs a powerful edge. Most songs are augmented by gorgeous string and piano arrangements, courtesy of Bryce’s Clogs bandmate Padma Newsome.

The band cover a lot of ground on Alligator. From the stately opener “Secret Meeting”, with its fluttering bassline and melodic guitars, to the anthemic rocker “Abel” with its repeated shouts of “My mind’s not right.” Anthemic is an adjective that can be used to describe many of the albums songs, due in large part to their ability to write a moving chorus. “Lit Up” is a perfect example of this, with its huge sing-along reframe. The band spend an equal amount of time, however, on gorgeous subdued songs, though not ballads or slow burns in the traditional sense. “Daughter of the Soho Riots” is a perfect example of this, as is “City Middle” which slowly builds to a hypnotic conclusion. The band strikes a perfect balance on “Friend of Mine” a perfectly written track with note perfect melodies and a staccato drumbeat that drives the song as much as the guitars.

Berninger proves himself worthy of the praise that has been heaped at his feat. His lyrics rarely build to a cohesive whole, but remain brilliant non the less. He has a unique mastery of imagery, with lines like “Show up here loaded with bells on your toes/I don't care what you're into/I'll put velvet ropes around you, if that's what you need.” Elsewhere, he shows fleeting glimpses of paranoia with “I think this place is full of spies/I think they're onto me/Didn't anybody, didn't anybody tell you/Didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room”, melancholy with “Karen, I'm not taking sides
I don't think I'll ever do that again/I'll end up winning and I won't know why/I'm really trying to shine here, I'm really trying” and even self mocking with “I'm put together beautifully/Big wet bottle in my fist, big wet rose in my teeth/I'm perfect piece of ass/Like every Californian.” And while there’s no way to know what he means by it, its hard not to be enchanted by a line like “You know you have a permanent piece/Of my medium-sized American heart.”

I could probably go on for hours about the closer “Mr. November”, possibly the greatest song they’ve ever written. Suffice to say it sums up the album in a perfect, single snapshot. Like all the other songs, it doesn’t seem particularly revolutionary at first, but it reveals itself in the little details: a particularly well modulated guitar riff, a sharp drumbeat, or an especially interesting lyric. I have no idea what “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November/I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over” means, but that doesn’t stop it from being utterly brilliant, and that in itself reflects on to the rest of the album.

Recomended tracks:
Secret Meeting
Lit Up
Looking For Astronaughts
Friend of Mine
Abel
City Middle
Mr. November



Recent reviews by this author
Okkervil River The Stand InsBand of Horses Cease to Begin
The Weakerthans Reunion TourThe Smiths Strangeways, Here We Come
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Is IsThe Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America
user ratings (1201)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
JAD
August 29th 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I know I came across as a raging fanboy, but they deserve it.This Message Edited On 08.29.07

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2007



6073 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The National's 2005 effort remains a truely special record.

Reviewers have a tuff time describing The National.

Though that might just be personal preference.
Its both gorgeous and wiry

Little nitpicks, but otherwise solid review. A little fanboy-ish, yeah (describing "Friend of Mine" as a "perfect example" with "some of their best hooks" doesn't help much) and with an abrupt conclusion, but it's otherwise good.
Awesome record as well.

JAD
August 29th 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'll fix those, thanks.

Wanker
August 29th 2007



139 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, great band. My favorite tracks are Geese of Beverly Road and Mr. November.

The Jungler
August 29th 2007



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, definitely a solid review. This album is better than Boxer by a considerable margin, and Boxer was a pretty good album.

londoncalling457
August 29th 2007



2565 Comments


I just picked up Boxer today..it was the only album they had by these guys, but I probably would have started off with it anyway. Nice review.

Concubine
August 29th 2007



333 Comments


album is superb

jrowa001
August 30th 2007



8749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review, great album. not sure if i like this or Boxer more yet. both are a 4.5

Two-Headed Boy
August 30th 2007



4527 Comments


Boxer is kind of disappointing, but still good. Looks like this was the way to go, amirite?

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 31st 2007



15693 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't really like Boxer all that much.

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

JAD
August 31st 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think Boxer's pretty amazing, almost as good as this.This Message Edited On 08.31.07

plane
Staff Reviewer
October 24th 2008



6073 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

been digging this again lately

foreverendeared
October 24th 2008



14678 Comments


i should probably look into this. Boxer is tight

natey
October 24th 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is (almost) my favorite band and Boxer is as terrific in my opinion.

Bleak123
November 1st 2008



1902 Comments


This is a pretty amazing record. I slightly prefer this to 'Boxer'.

thestopsign89
August 21st 2009



1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been listening to this album a lot lately, finally getting a good feel of the album itself, and it really is quite a striking piece. Mr. November is probably one of my favorite songs of the decade.

PS: I'm pretty sure Mr. November is about a high school quarterback, it makes sense if you listen to the lyrics for a bit.

Knott-
Emeritus
August 21st 2009



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Lit Up is way too fucking good.

And I always thought City Middle > Mr. November.

shade
August 21st 2009



1198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The best track is easily The Geese of Beverly Road.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 21st 2009



17913 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i have weird memories

shade
August 21st 2009



1198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Pissing in a sink, I think



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy