The National ‘Boxer’

050430_thenationals.jpgMusically, I can be a treacherous snob. Not that I outwardly judge friends and co-horts on their musical tastes. I have friends that do that to me, so I not only know better, I always try to remember that listening to music, any music at all from Fergie to Bobby McFerrin, is better than not listening to music at all. I have other avenues to judge my friends on anyway. Sock choice, poor text message grammar, bad haircuts, etc.

But back to me, I’m a bit of a snob, as in, once something gets popular, I don’t give it a chance. Even if I liked the music in question before it was popular, I drop any chance of liking the future output of the music in question. It’s bad, I know it is, but it didn’t stop me from running far away from The Hold Steady. Even though I liked the band, they got really popular by album number three. And rather than put my personal differences aside and say, “I’m glad for their success,” I ran to the blogosphere, trashed their ironic mustaches, called them out on their Springsteen-ities and never looked back. I heard everyone liked album number three. Everyone except me, the one person in the world that never gave it a chance.

But likes Jules in Pulp Fiction, I’m trying. I’m trying real hard. As for The Hold Steady, I feel it’s too late for me to look back and make amends. Besides, if I need a band to talk about their bar-room-ish-ness, I’ll just go to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on a random Tuesday night. Or I’ll listen to the Eddie and The Cruisers soundtrack. I don’t need Williamsburg for that.

But again, I’m trying. And six months after the release of their latest album, I finally decided it might be due time to give the much over-hyped Brooklyn via Cincinnati band The National a second chance. The album in question, Boxer, is everywhere. I can’t go three steps in NYC without someone mentioning its latent greatness. I wanna tear everyone apart and ask where they were when their first album came out, but I don’t wanna be that guy. At least not anymore.

I truly loved The National’s 2005 album, Alligator. I can vividly remember tearing down Great Western Rd in Glasgow on my bike, blasting the album into my ears as a I raced double decker buses in and out of the city center. It was a perfect soundtrack for the slightly younger, much angrier version of myself that was cultivated in Scotland and New Jersey in 2005. The National pulled off something I don’t get to see too often. They were toughly but vulnerably bitter. They put up fronts, then tore them down, unveiling a sense of ill-fated doom at the end of the road. They sensed something was wrong, tried to avoid confronting it, then double-backed and said, “Look, shit’s fucked up and we’re scared. Plus, we were afraid to admit to that in the first place and that sucks in itself.” I knew the feeling well.

That same emotion isn’t evoked as easily on the latest album, dubbed Boxer, by The National. Now they’re just vulnerable. Less confrontational, more introverted. Still explosive. Kinda like when an alcoholic gets stoned. The turmoil turns in on one’s self. It’s quieting for the time being, but you know that once that shit becomes unburied, it’s gonna be that much worse. I actually think the song writer might be addressing some sorta addiction or addict in one form or another throughout most of the record. And man, he’s got me feeling for him the past few weeks.

Had I not be an ass and decided that The National were too hyped up for me to listen to Boxer when it was released, the song writer would’ve carried my sympathies with him for the past six months. But alas, I am an ass. And the praise/sympathy is a little late for the rest of the world.

Like I said though, I’m trying. And even though the toughness of The National’s ‘Alligator’ isn’t as readily apparent on ‘Boxer,’ I like the record a whole damn lot. Just like everyone around me.

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