Review Summary: I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Boxer kid.
The separation of ideas and understanding between Alligator and Boxer is just as confusing as trying to interpret the two albums. Where the former yields carefree songwriting in cohesiveness, Boxer brings to the table a new reality, that of the “unmagnificent lives of adults”. There comes that point in one’s life where the transition to adulthood seems to hit specifically towards expectation of what a person should strive to become. That being said, I wonder the circumstances that led each of the five members of The National to exist in the place they were in during the recording process of this record?
Boxers’ presentation of lyrical adaptations and whims carries much like that of its predecessors. Songs are quotable, full of blunt charm and wit, and consist too of tales of failed love story, heartbreak, and further hope for a brighter future. More importantly, the record sets itself apart as an individual piece of work. Boxer is something that stands apart and brings aspects completely new to the band’s discography. The boundaries are pushed to limits that expand beyond the perpetual heartache nature of The National’s work before. Production takes a huge step forward as well, handled by contributions from Peter Katis, as well as the inclusion of new instrument ensembles of violins and horns as heard in songs such as “Fake Empire” and “Slow Show”. Song writing continues to be a strong suit too, touching on familiar melancholy experience, but also an outlook pressing forward to new insights and joys of life as it comes.
“Turn the light out say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Lets not try to figure out everything at once
It's hard to keep track of you falling through the sky
We're half-awake in a fake empire
We're half-awake in a fake empire”
The cover of Boxer itself comes from a photograph shot at Katis’ wedding, featuring all five members of the band performing. Interpretation of the photograph has many implications, but in essence, it binds the overarching themes of the record perfectly, in subtle expressions of deep thought and temporary disconnection from the world around. That is what Boxer is in a nutshell; it provides the time to temporarily escape the pressures of the world and ponder individual purpose in growing older. There is a pervading fear of what is in store, and that reigns true in lyrics. “I’ll get money, I’ll get funny again”, is a charming and anxious cry sung by Matt Berninger, entailing an internal expectation of self-worth in “Start a War”. The song speaks to how a person goes through change in state of mind, simply in the hope of becoming something greater, a contributing member of society.
I like to think that Matt Berninger truly finds a sense of mission in being the wonderful lyricist and singer that he evolved into. It is a mystery as to what the band would be above all else if not having existed at all. It speaks to the personal passion and work ethic of The National finding what curbs the uncertainty of stepping into the adult world. Consider the formulation of ideas on Boxer as a glass half full approach to life, as compared to that of a pessimist. This record is an accomplishment of grand proportions, fulfilled in large part due to the full-fledged fervor for satisfaction of life goals and dreams. The National persevered to create a masterpiece of adult scale and class in great trial and ache, but even greater reward.