The National
Trouble Will Find Me


3.5
great

Review

by Jonny Hunter CONTRIBUTOR (103 Reviews)
May 21st, 2013 | 100 replies | 3,915 views


Release Date: 05/20/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The National finally slip and it's not quite as disastrous as you'd expect.

In light of other artists, it’s almost comical how The National approached the release of one of the most anticipated albums of 2013. Daft Punk had an extensive, slick marketing campaign and Boards of Canada made detectives out of their audience, meanwhile The National released a couple of tracks on their YouTube channel and played “Sorrow” for six hours. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to use understated than comical, but the success of this muted effort in the light of such excess can only be seen as funny. It’s like a friend I once had who, when asked in an engineering class to make a paper braking system for a toy car, scrunched the paper up in the rough shape of a cock, lazily strapped it to the front with half a roll of tape and ended up doing better than everyone else.

It’s a humour suiting The National, whose frontman Matt Berninger’s lyrics have always dripped with a quirky and self-deprecating glaze. This is a band who have never seen themselves as superstars despite releasing three critically acclaimed albums in a row. Neither have The National caved in to pressure by settling in any one style, and since hitting their stride halfway through Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers they’ve never looked back or stumbled. Until now, that is.

It isn’t a fall or trip, but a pause to look back on the last few releases and say: “Jesus, they were pretty good weren’t they? We should do more.” It’s a sentiment which leaves many parts of Trouble Will Find Me feeling more like a reflection than a push forward: caught between the opposite motifs of their discography like a man tied to separate horses by each limb. With the carefree romanticism of Alligator on the left arm and High Violet’s dark, abstract imagery on the right, this is an album at risk of being torn apart like Sean Bean in Black Death.

They pull it off, in a distinctly The National kind of way, but the listener is left confused by the band’s opposing directions. The album starts well, with initial single “Demons” helping set if off with a dark and gritty showcase of Matt’s talent for lyricism. He nonchalantly bats out confessions and secrets like he always has, and by this point in his career it’s a surprise he has any left, which makes the brilliant (though not quite rhyming) “I am secretly in love with/ everyone I grew up with” all the more profound. “Don’t Swallow the Cap” continues this line of self-pity and depreciation, while also following it up with a fittingly catchy, groan-led chorus. In their brooding nature, these two singles mark the most obvious evolution of High Violet: an older, more mature The National playing older, more mature music for those as dejected as they are.

And then the rest of the album starts, with results ranging all the way from extraordinary to lackluster and, in every case, betraying the trajectory of The National’s discography to offer an emotionally open experience. On the end of the former, energetic and dramatic “Heavenface” leads the charge as Matt explores the higher limits of his voice and music rises to join him in a sweet, yet characteristically morbid fanfare to “I believe her, I’m a griever now.” If this sounds a little sweet for The National, it would be because it is. “Heavenface” has just enough wit to pull it off, choosing to undermine the tone with less than sweet lyrics. However, this betrays the main problem to be found in Trouble Will Find Me: the sweetness carries on with a lack of wit to cover it. “Hard to Find” and “Fireproof” are beyond help as their tone descends into sickly, resulting in two glossy Alligator b-sides without the presence of an “All the Wine” to tragically undercut them. Elsewhere, a song might stick too closely to an off-puttingly chirpy melody for a few bars too long, or even retreat to tired phrases about some girl of some importance doing something long ago. This couldn’t be any more different to the dark and restrained sentiment of the two singles: it feels just a little off.

Despite this, it is important to remember who we’re talking about here. The National are well within the realms of indie-rock royalty, so a bad day for them would be a great day for another, and most of the praise towards them is left out because it’s all been said a thousand times before. However, Trouble Will Find Me is simply missing a few key ingredients previously taken for granted and it’s these subtle losses which dramatically change The National’s image. Ironically, the band describe this quite well with “Slipped,” which despite being directed at a girl and not the audience does a good job at portraying Matt’s admittance of being far from perfect. For a moment the illusion slips and we see a five piece rock band playing five piece rock band music: it’s all incredibly disappointing to fans expecting an impossible level of perfection.

So taken on its own merits, as an album by a band and not by the fictitious force known as The National, Trouble Will Find Me is a great album. Sure, they didn’t really know where they were going with this release, Matt’s narrative voice jumps all over the place and it’s a little cheesy in moments, but that doesn’t stop the parts where the band still manage to shine at their brightest, as well as the immediate benefits this new, less convoluted style brings. But in becoming more open, The National lose the key ingredient of mystery and fantasy which previously allowed fans to piece together their own meaning. Trouble Will Find Me is then left as a good album instead of a fantastic one, and from our A* reference point it’s hard not to see this as a bad thing.



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user ratings (1065)
Chart.
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Originally posted on MuzikDizcovery: http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/2013/05/album-review-national-trouble-will-find.html

Risking the wrath of the sputnik userbase here, so try to be nice while burning my effigy.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013


31153 Comments


recommended by reviewer
The National Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers
The National Boxer
The National High Violet
The National Alligator


Ya don't say


Digging: Banks - Goddess

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I'm as diverse as I am talented.

Artuma
May 21st 2013


12893 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

you should probably fix that they played Sorrow for six hours, not ten.

the review is obviously well-written but i disagree at a lot of points here. the whole album is really consistent and i actually think Hard to Find and Fireproof are better than many songs on Alligator

Digging: Suffocate For Fuck Sake - Blazing Fires and Helicopters on the Fro

tommygun
May 21st 2013


24918 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

sweet black death reference that movie ruled

Digging: Broods - Evergreen

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

"you should probably fix that they played Sorrow for six hours, not ten.

the review is obviously well-written but i disagree at a lot of points here. the whole album is really consistent and i actually think Hard to Find and Fireproof are better than many songs on Alligator"

Thanks, I went in and changed it.

I guess we'll just have to do the arbitrary "wait and see" test with this album, then, but I've had it on repeat since it first leaked and it's done nothing but get a little more dull the more I listen.

Artuma
May 21st 2013


12893 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

about half of the album hit me instantly and the rest, excluding Slipped, have grown on me after that

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


6448 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice read man.

I like this maybe a little bit better than you, but I totally understand the gripes you have with it. It may be my least favorite release of the ones I've heard as well. Not really sure yet, though.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

They'll never make Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers 2 ):

breakingthefragile
May 21st 2013


2956 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nailed it with this review.

Digging: Cathedrals - Cathedrals EP

johnnydeking29
May 21st 2013


9034 Comments


Finally a review that isn't sickeningly hyperbolic

Digging: Envy - A Dead Sinking Story

Adabelle
May 21st 2013


4257 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, I don't read your reviews enough.

Two things you might want to change:

but the listener is left confused by the the band’s opposing directions. The album
start’s well


StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Thanks, I think I must be going blind. In the original draft I managed to use "before" twice in one sentence and misspell "losses" as well.


NightProwler
May 21st 2013


6339 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Really good review! I don't agree with the rating (although I'm not settled on one yet). It needs some Alligator-rock, ofc, but other than that, I love this record

Digging: Neil Young - Live at the Cellar Door

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


7333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah I pretty much agree. I've not given up hope on it growing on me, but the majority of this sounds like they're on autopilot.

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


21921 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is like Boxer and Boxer was ok

Artuma
May 21st 2013


12893 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

roughly said this is something like 75% Boxer and 25% HV

Gyromania
May 21st 2013


15681 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

you people are stoned, this is obviously better than high violet

chambered99
May 21st 2013


801 Comments


agree w review no way this is better than hv

Gyromania
May 21st 2013


15681 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

of their five really good records, high violet is probably my least favourite. i still love it, but noway in hell is it as immediate and heartfelt as this imo



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