45.) The National - The Boxer (2007)
"Showered and blue blazered. Fill yourself with quarters."
Yep that's a National lyric and there you have it. You either go with it or you don't. I do. I really do.
Everyone I know likes The National. Across the board. It's at a hundred percent and I've come to find that difficult to understand. I don't mean that a diss either. I should clarify. I get The Shins. I know why everybody loves The Shins. They're great, but they're accessible. The National, though. I stand slack-jawed. Their records are all serious growers with lyrics that sometimes make no sense and music that can be downright dour. I've even heard people who like them call them boring. Yet, they're one of the most commonly accepted good bands of the decade.
While I might not totally get it, I have a theory. The National, especially here on The Boxer, sound like your twenties and who doesn't love their twenties? To pinpoint it a bit more, The National sound like your twenties in New York. They sound like discovery.
When I listen to "Ada" I can imagine being a first timer to New York standing in the middle of Times Square late at night when it's not miserably crowded, right before it really becomes winter and just looking up and taking it all in. When I hear "Mistaken For Strangers", it sounds like getting drunk in some lower east side bar and "The Apartment Song" is the one playing in the cab on the ride home. "Start A War" is that first big New York break-up. The one that's so utterly miserable, but when it's all said and done is actually pretty romantic in its own right. And "Squalor Victoria" finds you somewhere you never intended to be, too fucked up too care, but still with enough sense to recognize you're gonna regret it in the morning.
So, The Boxer is a sexy record in that regard. It sounds a bit dangerous, but not overwhelmingly so. It's not so much that you can't handle. Enough can't be said for spending your twenties in New York - even though from a financial standpoint no one should - and my ears hear that joy, angst, fear, depression, uncertainty etc. etc. in The Boxer. It's all those mixed emotions and all those jittery late nights the record so successfully captures that, I think, makes everyone like it so much. Including me.
Posted by Pat Driscoll