The National
Alligator


5.0
classic

Review

by MagmaWalrus USER (10 Reviews)
May 3rd, 2012 | 46 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A perfect blend of dark humor, sadness, honesty and brilliant instrumentation.

I can’t think of anything more clever to call Alligator than an often overlooked masterpiece. From the sudden opening of Secret Meeting to the climactic roar of a closer that is Mr. November, it’s simply a perfect piece of music. The quiet but always gripping instrumentation seems to reveal something new with each listen; be it a perfectly placed guitar lead, an intense and powerful drum section, or one of Matt’s brilliant lyrics. Alligator is the sound of The National finding who they are, just as Matt found who he was, and you can hear it in both the music and his lyrics.

It took time for me to even be able to stand listening to Alligator. The songs seemed to lead nowhere, the music sounded flat out boring to me and I couldn’t for the life of me enjoy the vocals. But it’s easy to see now that the songs never seemed to lead anywhere because they were already there, the music is a beautiful mix of talent and subtlety and the vocals couldn’t suit it more. Every note on guitar shines and the drumming is forceful; constantly evolving but never sounding too busy. The often added piano and violin are played just as well, helping to build atmosphere and make each song sound full. Some of it is played so delicately and with such subtlety that it almost seems like a shame that they’re hidden beneath everything else.

Traces of the two albums that were released prior to Alligator can be heard; in fact it in many ways feels like a bold expansion of the ideas that worked best for them. The difference however is that in the past their sound represented a group of people who knew exactly where they were in life, whereas on Alligator Matt’s lyrics make it abundantly clear that he’s confused, disoriented and scared, in a constant struggle to figure things out. On “Karen,” he confesses that he feels “Mechanical and thin” over slow and simple keyboard playing and dark, quiet guitar playing. In the poignant ‘Daughters of the Soho Riots” he confesses “Everything I can remember, I remember wrong,” as an equally heartbreaking fingerpicked guitar plays. The lyrics are constantly surprising and moving, and they’re often presented in the form of darkly funny sarcasm (“I’m a perfect piece of ass, like every Californian”), or erupting in anger, as he screams “My mind’s not right!” in Abel. What makes these lyrics special is that you can tell he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong, and each song is a step towards figuring it out. They’re strikingly honest but clever as well.

Despite this however, the album can be uplifting at times. “Lit Up” is one of the few rockers on the album, with guitars that are just as strong sounding as the drums, making it one of the most all around fun songs on the album. “Abel” roars from the moment it starts, again building consistently. By the time Matt screams “I’m missing something!” it’s hard not to find some way to relate. “The Geese of Beverly Road” is a quiet and understated masterpiece on its own; a tale of confusion and the problems that come with the freedom of being an adult, and I can’t think of many moments in music that are more beautiful than him singing “We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.” The music fits these themes perfectly, and even though the brilliant way in which they’re composed keeps you listening intently, it’s easy to discover something new with every listen.

Every phrase and genius piece of music builds up to Mr. November, the final song on the album, a perfect climax, and one of the finest rock songs I’ve ever heard. Almost everything that makes every song before it great is present here. The drums are strong but still feel restrained, the guitar carries the song, and Matt gives one of his greatest vocal performances of his career so far. It builds up to an inspiring and catchy chorus, but then suddenly slows down again, allowing every aspect of the song to shine. Matt sounds completely sincere while yelling “I’m Mr. November!” and as the song reaches its conclusion, it finally sounds like he’s starting to figure things out.



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user ratings (1317)
Chart.
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ShadowRemains
May 2nd 2012


21042 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

so good

Digging: Execration (NOR) - Morbid Dimensions

auberginedreams
May 2nd 2012


6053 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i wouldn't really call this overlooked, usually people call either this or boxer their best album.

Funeralopolis
May 2nd 2012


11558 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Overlooked because it is National's best album

Digging: Deep Puddle Dynamics - The Taste of Rain...Why Kneel

ThunderNeutral21
May 2nd 2012


3864 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

this review captures why this album is so fucking perfect. Their lyrics are the most important parts of this and Boxer.

ThunderNeutral21
May 2nd 2012


3864 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

" On “Karen,” he confesses that he feels “Mechanical and thin” over slow and simple keyboard playing and dark, quiet guitar playing. In the poignant ‘Daughters of the Soho Riots” he confesses “Everything I can remember, I remember wrong,” as an equally heartbreaking fingerpicked guitar plays. The lyrics are constantly surprising and moving, and they’re often presented in the form of darkly funny sarcasm (“I’m a perfect piece of ass, like every Californian”), or erupting in anger, as he screams “My mind’s not right!” in Abel. What makes these lyrics special is that you can tell he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong, and each song is a step towards figuring it out. They’re strikingly honest but clever as well."

i would have given a more specific analysis with more lyrics form each song, but god you hit the nail on the head

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
May 2nd 2012


1477 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

He is a perfect piece of ass. No sarcasm present there.

YetAnotherBrick
May 2nd 2012


4473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^ this

ThunderNeutral21
May 2nd 2012


3864 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

thats true lol. but really I don't think that line is sarcastic at all. All the Wine really is a song about an arrogant youngster (or maybe the arrogance of pre-adult society as a whole) and how he/she/whoever think their the shit, and that nobody is as cool or as lucky as they are, and that they have everything. that song is like the perfect precursor to what they talk about on boxer

JWT155
May 2nd 2012


9297 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sureee

auberginedreams
May 2nd 2012


6053 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

he is a birthday candle in a circle of black girls.

ThunderNeutral21
May 2nd 2012


3864 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

best lineeeeeeeeee

Funeralopolis
May 2nd 2012


11558 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I find this album is weaker as a whole album than Boxer but individually listened songs on this blow Boxer away. This album is much more experimental while Boxer is much more tight.

Sirob
May 2nd 2012


2653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Boxer>This>High Violet all separated by barely anything.

MagmaWalrus
May 2nd 2012


242 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks everyone. I was trying not to analyse the lyrics too much, so I'm glad it seemed to work. And you're probably right about the perfect piece of ass line, it's just so different from most of his lyrics - be it arrogance or sarcasm or something else.

Eko
May 2nd 2012


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

best national album

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


10494 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

prog is dumb perfect amount of analysis. going too in-depth loses the reader

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


4442 Comments


I've never heard any of this bands music, but i here a lot of people talking about them. I'll check them out. Good review, POS"d

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
May 3rd 2012


1477 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Nah, band is good because band is good (and I sure ain't American).

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well it's no SSFDL but the album's still sick. I don't know if I'd agree about the difficultly of listening to it though, their structure or method isn't really anything that should be too surprising.

ThunderNeutral21
May 3rd 2012


3864 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

yea



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