Saturday, September 30, 2006

Music Review -- Alligator by The National

The National has roots in both Ohio and New York and it shows. Actually, this band would make a great trivia question. What band has members from Ohio that finally formed in Brooklyn and includes two sets of brothers? Anyway, the band combines a punk rock attitude and lyrics with a roots rock vibe.

Lead singer Matt Berninger presents an almost spoken delivery with his deep baritone voice. The guitar work from Aaron and Bryce Dessner is intricate and melodic and really drives some of the tamer songs. Berninger’s lyrics combine real life sensitivity with some deep angst. The great opening track Secret Meeting starts out, “I think this place is full of spies/ I think they're onto me…Didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room?”

The band seems somewhat reserved and laid back on most of the album’s tracks. It is like they can rock and they might be about to rock, but they never really decide that it is time to rock. The combination of the singer’s voice, their lyrics and the excellent guitar work make the album fairly enjoyable, though on many of these tunes one or more of these elements are missing. Alligator, which came out mid-2005, is a solid disc, though I wish more of their songs were crafted as well as tracks like Karen, Lit Up and Friend of Mine. The National comes off as a less arty Arcade Fire or an artier The John Doe Thing. It’s a rare band that could appeal to both the alt-country and post-punk set, but The National pulls it off.

2.50 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale.

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