the national high violet
  • TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2010

  • Posted by:

"I was afraid I'd eat your brains / 'Cause I'm evil" sings a ghoulishly poetic Matt Berninger, the brass throated lead singer of The National. "Conversation 16" is one track of many off of High Violet, the full-length successor to 2007's award winning Boxer, that operates within the album's lyrical theme of romanticized self-destruction. It's a literary sort of cool, and seems like a natural evolution for a post-punk band in 2010. High Violet is foreboding and bleak, but appropriately dressed for the occasion; in this instance, The National opted to sound less like the tormented youth embodied by oft compared Joy Division, and instead sound like the tormented maturity embodied in a Vonnegut novel. High Violet is rebellion grown-up and it's fantastic.

"Bloodbuzz Ohio" is the album's first single, and perhaps its biggest outlier. It's highlighted by the drumming of Bryan Devendorf, and supports a fast, complicated time signature reminiscent of Bloc Party's "Helicopter." It's far and above the most radio friendly, with bombastic walls of reverb and horns taken from the Kings of Leon playbook.

The band is at it's strongest, however, when the spotlight is on Berninger's deadpanning baritone. On "Lemonworld", he sings, "I gave my heart to the army / The only sentimental thing I could think of / With cousins and colors and somewhere overseas / But it'll take a better war to kill a man like me." It's sophisticated, perceptive, political and powerful all in one breath.

On "Sorrow" he's equally adept with breath and brevity: "Sorrow found me when I was young / Sorrow waited, sorrow won / Sorrow they put me on the pill / It's in my honey, it's in my milk." Great stuff.

And it's funny, because The National are a prime example of how steady dedication and hard work pay off. High Violet is balanced with a well-thought out distribution of effortthere are no absolute standouts, but rather a carefully manicured fostering of songs that all have something different to offer; all something good. It's antithetical to the way the hit-driven music industry operates, and only reinforces the Album as the go to model. High Violet showcases a band that's grown with grace, which is especially difficult in an industry run by creaky legged stars who have a hard time letting go of
their feckless, distant youths.

Maturing with dignity? Now that, my friends, is rebellion.- chris gayomali

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MP3: "Bloodbuzz Ohio" (High Violet)
The National on Myspace

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