I’m not really a lyrics person. I think lyrics are important, but I typically don’t give as much thought to them as I do the music. When I heard The National’s new album “High Violet,” however, I knew that I had found one of the bands that would challenge my beliefs about the value of lyrics.
I had one of their earlier albums, “Alligator,” but I only listened to it a couple of times.
Their new album, though, was receiving a lot of hype before its release so I decided to give it a shot. It would only take the first song to get me completely hooked on The National.
I would spend the next couple of weeks frantically asking my friends for their back–catalogue, finding said back–catalogue, then listening to their discography on repeat for three straight months. Needless to say, “High Violet” is a very good album.
During my three–month (and still somewhat ongoing) The National listening binge, I noticed a couple of things: first, that each successive album since 2005’s “Alligator” has gotten progressively sadder and second, Matt Berninger, the lead singer, has a weird thing with insects.
“High Violet” is not necessarily a “sad” album; more like depressing for grown–ups. Berninger often sings about the depressing nature of growing–up and realizing that life in the real world is just kind of shitty.
For instance, on “Bloodbuzz Ohio” he sings about dreading going back home and having nothing to show for himself since he left.
It’s something that I think we can all relate to as some of us get ready to graduate and look forward to leaving our cramped small towns and venture out into the world; but at same time we are terrified of this unknown journey.
He also talks about being “carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees,” which I hope none of us ever have to relate to.
Berninger’s dark and dry humor not only makes the album less of a big cry–fest than it could be, but it also makes it more relatable for the listener.
Not to mention it’s just more interesting to listen to.
Throughout the album there random non–sequiturs about walking with spiders (“Terrible Love”), owing “money to the money to the money [you] still owe” (“Bloodbuzz Ohio”) and being afraid that you will eat your romantic partner’s brains because you are evil (“Conversation 17”).
Berninger’s quirky lyrics do a lot to make The National a standout and top echelon indie band. The music itself is beautifully complex but also easy to listen to.
“High Violet” has heavily influences from the brooding post–punk band Joy Division but also from the American working–class rock of Bruce Springsteen. Songs like “Terrible Love,” “Sorrow” and “Afraid of Anyone” deserve many listens for their emotional weight and musical density.
But other songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Conversation 17” can easily be put on in the background during a party.
“High Violet” is another great indie album and one of the top albums of the year. The swooning vocals of Berninger and catchy indie rock make this a must have album.