The National
Laugh Track


2.5
average

Review

by Odal CONTRIBUTOR (34 Reviews)
September 18th, 2023 | 161 replies


Release Date: 09/18/2023 | Tracklist


To anyone on the outside looking in, The National have pretty much always been an insufferable band. You could accuse them of having listless mumblings and songs that are entirely too self-satisfied and, perhaps the greatest sin of all, being boring as hell. For those willing to look beneath the surface a bit, the band was a sprawling, elegant beast who could rattle off universal musings with athletic ease and had one helluva rhythm section to boot. But, look, I get all the complaints. There was a band at my college named All the Wine and featured four dudes who desperately needed therapy instead of calling themselves “Sad Dads” in a desperate bid to endear their darkness to any helpless woman they gestured to after a few Tecates. The schtick is annoying, but The National were the forefathers of that schtick. But you can only hold on to the feeling of being carried away by cheerleaders for so long and The National, too, had finally aged to the level that their musings had always suggested. The tempos became a little slower, the dynamics a little more flat, the poetry a little more sanitized, and Phoebe Bridgers features began to read an awful lot like a ransom note, culminating in this year’s awful The First Two Pages of Frankenstein.

Laugh Track then comes as a bit of surprise, another collection of songs ostensibly from the same writing sessions that delivered their worst album yet. Another stab to present The National as their “most mature” and “darkest-sounding” yet, or whatever marketing buzzwords sound nicest. The results, miraculously, do slow the skid for the band becoming a complete legacy act, but the issues that have flared up over the years with the band’s flat, repetitive structures are unfortunately symptoms of the band still kind of accepting their long, protracted decline down the drain. It’s an overly long, frustrating album that sounds more like a Greatest Hits Vol.3 of the band than something with a clear arc or thesis to ground everything down.

There are cuts on here like the title track, which features the aforementioned Bridgers casting another unwanted shadow of the kingdom of “indie” music, and Weird Goodbyes, featuring another “indie” superstar in Bon Iver, that frankly make me go blind from staring at my watch. Both songs have the band’s worst tendencies from the last few years on display: lowstakes and uninteresting lyrics that sound like an old man complaining his 2 for $20 at Applebee’s is incorrect but it’s no big deal, unnecessary guest stars that serve as more of a networking flex and appeal to Gen Z than add to the song, and their brilliant rhythm section being replaced by a metronome. These moments completely sink any hope of the band fully reclaiming their old glory for an entire project and are so bafflingly boring that you truly wonder what they were thinking these songs would illuminate or stir in any listener.

But then there are some brilliant moments that are among the band’s best in the last decade or so that only further the seemingly evergreen question of “Where has this band been?” “Space Invader” almost fools you into believing it’s another entry of La Croix songs before elegantly yawning into an awe-inspiring outro where Bryan Devendorf completely explodes from all the tension that has built up from being forsaken for three albums. “Crumble” features Roseanne Cash and, in perhaps the year’s biggest twist actually adds to the song by not holding it hostage as a thinly-veiled Tik Tok stitch by being a gentle audio caress that harkens back to the band’s days of being far more prescient and tender. Best or worst of all, “Smoke Detector” ends the album in such quality fashion that you almost want to go back and listen to the whole thing in an fruitless effort to wonder what you had missed. Sounding like a cross between the band’s old piss and vinegar days and a little bit like Lou Reed, the band is allowed to actually sound like a band and jam their way through a hypnotic and demonic sounding firework display. Seriously though, where the hell has this band been?

Laugh Track is not a good album. There are good moments, there are good songs, but it’s not a good album. Instead, it’s a confirmation of whatever priors a listener has about the group with just enough to sink the general feeling on the album and just enough to also make it not seem like a complete waste of time. The National are never going back to being insanely consistent and beloved group of yesteryear. Everyone’s too old and prolific and rich now to haggle with their demons enough to produce a classic. But maybe that was expecting too much in the first place. If we get a “Smoke Detector” or “Space Invaders” on every album, maybe that’s enough.



Recent reviews by this author
Slayyyter StarfuckerJeff Rosenstock HELLMODE
Black Country, New Road Live at Bush HallSkrillex Don’t Get Too Close
Drake and 21 Savage Her LossTaylor Swift Midnights
user ratings (109)
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
The trilogy was also noted by critics for its conceptual monochromatic cover art, with 1 being blue, 2 being red, and 3 being yellow.[9] STAFF (2.7)
Apology ha ha?...

Sunnyvale STAFF (3.8)
There’s a lot I’ve not forgotten, but I’ve let go of other things...

CrisStyles (4)
We'll see if it changes the scene...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Odal
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2023


1511 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

As always, comments/criticisms/suggestions welcome.



Was hyped from the singles and letdown again. But less so than Frankenstein. Progress?

RadioNew03
September 18th 2023


167 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Your crazy! this album is way better than the first two pages…. It is a great album

RadioNew03
September 18th 2023


167 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Best songs on the album are Turn off the House, Laugh Track, Hornets,Alphabet City, Space Invader and Smoke Detector.



The best songs on Two Pages.. and on Laugh Track should have just been one album than it would be a 5 LOL

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2023


1511 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I think if they made one album instead of two and cut it down to the best moments, it would be like 4/5. Both have some really good stuff but they are just too bloated and listless.



Smoke Detector actually kinda pisses me off from how good it is in relation to everything else lol

TheArtofTheGanja
September 18th 2023


386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Smoke Detector sounds so out of place, it's got the energy of the Alligator days. Why can't they tap into that for a full album? Deep End is a nice throwback to a Trouble Will Find Me-type vibe, too

DoofDoof
September 18th 2023


13459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

'I think if they made one album instead of two and cut it down to the best moments, it would be like 4/5. Both have some really good stuff but they are just too bloated and listless.'



would be a 3.5



I'd only salvage 'Poolside' and 'Tropic Morning' from 'Franky Two Pages'



Guess I'd add them and drop up to four from the new one...'Dreaming', 'Coat Hook', 'Tour Manager' would definitely get the chop, maybe one more too.

rc239
September 18th 2023


389 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

band has become so boring and disappointing these past few years. they should've titled this album sleep track



TalonsOfFire
Emeritus
September 18th 2023


20889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Halfway through my first listen and this is already their best since SWB. I knew they still had it! Very much anticipating Smoke Detector.

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2023


1511 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Definitely their best since SWB.



I am Easy to Find is like a closer to a 2 and Frankenstein is honestly like a 1.5ish for me.



I probably have a little bit of negative tilt to this for what the band has become and it's closer to a 3 than a 2.5, but it's the same ballpark. Can't get over how much Smoke Detector rules

someone
September 18th 2023


5854 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

necessary, important, and true words here, Odal. may the indie evangelicals be damned



but seriously, big names featuring big names especially when it brings little to no blossom to the lyrics or song in general has always been a red flag. if you're gonna have sign another grand-seller scene artist, then have them contribute more to the song than, i presume, mere vocal feature. it is quite the extra lazy work

DoofDoof
September 18th 2023


13459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Something about 'Weird Goodbyes' does sound very 'Bon Iver writing in general' so I maybe give it a pass in that regard - though I could be wrong and he just rolled up for vocals

theBoneyKing
September 18th 2023


23859 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Given Vernon's close working relationship with Aaron I'd be surprised if he just showed up for vox

someone
September 18th 2023


5854 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

tbh i wouldn't be able to pick on on Phoebe Bridgers song-writing traits with a gun to my head.

theBoneyKing
September 18th 2023


23859 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really? Say what you will for her quality-wise but I feel she’s developed a rather distinct style.

Pikazilla
September 18th 2023


27675 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

her first album rules but second is a bit of a trainwreck

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2023


1511 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I like Phoebe, I just wish she didn't have such a chokeholld on this sector of music. Seeing she's featured more often than not makes me groan rather than look forward to it

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 18th 2023


56805 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

Phoebe Bridgers songwriting is just slacker indie refitted for depressives who find consolation in absolutely nothing happening ever. Having a distinctive drawl does not make you a distinctive writer

This review slaps though, lol at that first para story

Parabola
September 18th 2023


81 Comments


Thinking this may be their best in a little while, definitely prefer it to Frankenstein

Pikazilla
September 18th 2023


27675 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

'Phoebe Bridgers songwriting is just slacker indie refitted for depressives who find consolation in absolutely nothing happening ever. Having a distinctive drawl does not make you a distinctive writer'



couldn't have put it any better

MoM
September 18th 2023


5140 Comments


“Phoebe Bridgers songwriting is just slacker indie refitted for depressives who find consolation in absolutely nothing happening ever. Having a distinctive drawl does not make you a distinctive writer”

I like Phoebe and I’m not depressed at all. I don’t get this vibe at all, but different strokes.



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





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // 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 2005-2022 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy