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- The National »
The beauty of Alligator - Brooklyn-based The National’s most recent and best release to date - is its brutal honesty, compellingly delivered through Matt Berninger’s disturbingly unorthodox pipes. An album that neither assumes nor promotes nothing of itself, Alligator is a collection reminiscent of the aftermath of a heated fight; while there is so much more to express, neither party is prepared for, or indeed up for tackling the job. Each track is laced with confession, constantly reminding you that it is okay to feel good about all the bad things you have been responsible for in the past. Regardless if it revolves around sexual frustration, teenage angst or just being a knobhead in incorrect situations, The National understands and in Alligator, has presented a strikingly honest rebuttal arguing that sometimes, everything can be simply okay, no matter what. While not the most uplifting listen, The National have proven with their third release that they a mature bunch who can masterfully weld together honesty and melody without sounding hyperbolic or melodramatic.
On a lengthy promotional jaunt that will take them throughout the UK and Europe in November, the band stopped in Toronto and ran through an all-too-short hour-long confessional that affirmed just how passionate the quintet is about the emotional pains latched on the back of Alligator. Heavily favouring material from the new record, Berninger and his accompanying band of brothers rolled through spirited pews of country, blues, rock, indie and folk, proverbially giving a feisty middle finger to any conceived notion of atonement. Despite the band’s admitted predilection for The Grateful Dead, any opportunity to improvise was reneged in an effort to let the songs speak for themselves. While no song lasted longer than four or five minutes, none needed to as Berninger’s prompt, personal vocals immediately encapsulated the hundred-strong audience in each specific desired emotion, be it the languid soberness of 'Daughters of the Soho Riots' or the everything-has-gone-wrong furiousness of 'Abel'.
In addition, with 'Secret Meeting', Berninger offered up a short trip into his thought process, conceding his suspicion that not only are spies after him, but also he thinks they are one step ahead. The hopefulness of ambiguous itinerancy in 'The Geese of Beverly Road' came full circle in Berninger’s convicting tone as well, while 'Mr. November', a clever narrative that subtly comments on the hidden problems embedded within American collegiate culture was ferociously attacked with berated guitars and pounding rhythms that stretched Berninger’s vocal chords past breaking point, making damn sure he got his point across. 'Looking for Astronauts' and the passionate 'Baby, We’ll be Fine' also displayed their true emotive beauty during the sixty-minute set, poignantly sung amidst darting melodies spuriously introduced and rescinded in succession by guitarist Aaron Dessner and a sixth member primarily playing violin and keyboards.
With beckoning lyrical requests like _"come be my waitress and serve me tonight / serve me the sky tonight with a big slice of lemon’ and ‘take all your reasons and take them away / to the middle of nowhere / and on your way home / throw from your window your record collection / they all run together and never make sense,"_ The National and their confessional message came full circle in Toronto, exhibiting exactly why this band has created a circus of acclaim lately. The show’s emphasis was simple. Promote the new record and sing the songs in such a way that represents the album, with added spontaneous tenacity for good measure. Not a difficult task for Berninger and crew apparantely.
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