Review Summary: Another set of illogically beautiful songs that pull the brain and heart in opposite, painstakingly crafted directions.
I have logic problems. Tonight I am grasping and failing at logical straws. Logic is missing me.
Trouble Will Find Me has befuddled me, sent me tumbling into seas of fogs of cloudy confusion. It's stunning you see, worthy (mostly) of every superlative I can weakly throw its way. And yet I'm not sure why.
None of it should work.
A band, any band, whatever band should not be able to get away with a sixth album of sounding exactly like themselves, exactly comfortable within themselves.
This isn't any album. This isn't whatever band.
I was all prepared to be disappointed by this. Logic told me that the cracks that had begun to appear in Berninger and friends' sturdy, stony-faced facade on High Violet should only have widened by now. Logic tells me, it shouts me down that one-paced misery can only carry you so far, that ill-fated attempts at the anthemic are the only coherent response to middle age that these displaced Ohians permanently on the awkward cusp of fame can muster.
Logic states that you shouldn't frontload an album. That following the almost unfairly gorgeous I Should Live In Salt with its teasing almost-chorus with the quintessentially brooding Demons with Don't Swallow The Cap which sounds almost exactly almost like every upper-tempo National song you've ever heard is a Bad Idea. Particularly when this triptych is juxtaposed with the meandering Fireproof.
Okay. Logic 1-0 The National.
What Logic can't do is explain how Heavenfaced does that curious thing to me that the best National songs do, when a combination of allusive/stupid (delete as appropriate) lyrics, orchestrally placed violins and Berninger's baritone makes me blink away tears whilst fighting the urge to jump with joyful abandon.
Have that, Logic.
Have Graceless, with the way it builds so unassumingly, taking its time with that typical verse-not quite chorus-verse structure before assuming the proportions of rolling thunder at around four minutes. Explain how in The National's hands the inimitably silly line, "There's a science to walking through windows" feels imbued with a lifetime's suffering and sadness and hardship.
I'll cede you some things, Logic. I'll agree with you that Trouble Will Find Me is probably two tracks too long, that the piano-led Pink Rabbits is a misstep, that The National sounding like Elton John is an unholy mistake possibly never worth repeating. I'd concur that Hard To Find is no Mr November nor Gospel, but it's no Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks either which is a good thing.
What we'll never agree on is the glory of Slipped which is the heart of the essence of exactly why this is the greatest band of Our Times.
You'll never understand the fact that these dour songs should by all rights bore me half to death but instead cure my loneliness with their confounding ability to uplift.
We're certainly not going to agree on a score. You'll point out, fairly enough, that this is a notch or two or three below Alligator and Boxer but appreciably better than High Violet and should be judged accordingly. You'll emphasise the faults, the length, the slow burners that fizzle and sputter when they should blaze.
Away with you, Logic. This is illogical perfection.