The B List: Seven Reasons Why Rupert Can’t Stop Listening to The National’s Boxer

1. The Emotional Connection:

Probably the most fascinating aspect of the album, and this band in general, is the bizarre emotional effect it has on people. We are not just talking about an album that people cannot get enough of for a month and then move on to the next new thing. The phenomenon is ongoing and it intensifies over time. There is a deeply personal appeal, whereby people identify this music to major periods of their lives. Personally, I had a moment like this when I was writing a little sappy wedding speech and decided to check their message board to see if others had the same effect. I stumbled upon a rather fascinating thread dedicated to people sharing these epiphanies. So here are some of the more poignant…

“By the end of ‘Start a War,’ I felt my eyes fill with tears and it was only the first song. I heard my brother – master of the understatement – say ‘…so beautiful.’”

“My life was new, surreal and uncertain…but in Boxer laid a comfort for me. An identifiable high watermark of a new beginning, and THAT comfort. Comfort in an uncertain future.”

“On June 19th last year, I met the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with. On that day, we sat on my bed, and we sang ‘Apartment Story’ together. Her favorite band changed for the first time ever, too.”

“I’m a metal freak at heart, but love a lot of different music. When I found these guys about three weeks ago, I was completely floored. Some of the most haunting and easiest music I’ve ever connected with. I haven’t quite pegged down why yet and I don’t know if I ever want too. It’s too good of a “run” to be screwed up by me over analyzing it. I haven’t been pulled in by an album (Boxer) like this in a long time.”

“Overall, I think there’s such a normalcy about them. The lyrics are not pedestrian, but they reflect an every-dayness that is hard to capture. It’s obvious to say but the music compliment the lyrics and the lyrics complement the music. They’ve got something special here. We’re lucky.”

“People whose minds aren’t right, people who want winter to leave, people who just want to turn the light out and say goodnight.”

“The difference with the National is that I have never become tired of them. I’ve never been this obsessed with a band for so long, or cared this much about a band.”

2. Keeping it Light:

Another element to note is in the lyrics on Boxer, Matt Berninger often jokes around in his words.

“I’ll put on a slow dumb show for you… And crack you up.”

This particular line comes from one of the album’s best tunes, Slow Show, and really conjures up a both hilarious and haunting image for me. It sounds like he sings “slow gun show,” which led me to imagine lead singer Matt Berninger enacting an entire Wayne’s World-esque skit, whereby he performs some shirtless slow motion display of muscle flexing for his woman. Horrifying as this scene may be, it’s this mundane and germane approach to writing about relationships, social issues and internal strife that make this album so relatable to the listener. Whatever the interpretation, the lyrics take on their own meanings and ultimately lead your imagination into some seriously bizarre places.

3. While Taking it Deep:

While maintaining this lighthearted tone, Berninger succeeds in sarcastically conveying deeper themes in the lyrics. For instance, the song Squalor Victoria suggests (I think) a white-collar minion working his ass off until the wee hours and then imagining his due praise, only to ultimately succumb to the Office Space realization that work fucking sucks. While this is oft-trodden ground for the twenty-something songwriter set, the National pulls it off rather seamlessly without the dreaded preachy vibe.

Underline everything, I’m a professional in my beloved white shirt
Underline everything, I’m a professional in my beloved white shirt
I’m going down among the saints

Raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens! Squalor Victoria! Squalor Victoria!
Raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens! Squalor Victoria! Squalor Victoria!

Out of my league, I have birds in my sleeves and I wanna rush in with the fools
Out of my league, I have birds in my sleeves and I wanna rush in with the fools

Raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens! Squalor Victoria! Squalor Victoria!
Raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens! Squalor Victoria! Squalor Victoria!

3:30 in the last night for you to save this
You’re zoning out, zoning out, zoning out, zoning out
3:30 in the last night for you to save this
You’re zoning out, zoning out, zoning out, zoning out

This isn’t working, you, my middlebrow fuck-up

4. Creative Drumlines:

It’s no easy feat in today’s oversaturated realm of indie rock for a band to distinguish oneself, particularly when a myriad of likeminded bands and band names exist like MGMT, the National Lights, Interpol and Of Montreal. I think a fair number of people who know The National by name, or even own the album, may overlook one of the true highlights of the album: Bryan Devendorf’s drumming. It’s not virtuoso musicianship that makes it so unique, but rather just a creative approach. He really works his snare drum, often crafting beats that resonate like Revolutionary War marches. And they chug the songs along, rather than just maintaining the pace in the background. The effect is that even on the softest of songs; they maintain the attention span easily where other bands might lose you after a few listens.

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5. Musical Diversity:

While the album still achieves the difficult milestone of being an album you can fall asleep to while listening, Boxer meanders gracefully between a lot of different sounds and energy levels. Songs like Gospel, Green Gloves, Start a War, and Slow Show serve as virtual lullabies; Brainy, Mistaken For Strangers, Apartment Story, and Fake Empire rock a little bit; and Squalor Victoria and Racing Like A Pro are darker.

6. The Risk Factor:

I still have no idea what emo means, but I think this might be it. Am I emo if I like this? [Editor’s Note: Rupert may not be Emo, but he’s SO Raven]

7. Lasting Impression:

If you blend the vocals of Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed, both in terms of observant lyrics and the deep monotonous voice, and add a teeny dose of range and harmony, you have your front man, Matt Berninger. Mix in the able-chopped guitar players and songsmiths, Bryce and Aaron Dessner; as well as bassist Aaron Devendorf to one of the most creative rock drummers in the business today, Bryan Devendorf, and you have yourself one of the great albums on the naught decade. Plus, Sufjan Stevens graces the album on two tracks and regular contributor Padma Newsome adds the chamber music feel as she helps out with strings and piano. When we look back at the great albums of our generation and see titles like Ten, OK Computer, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on the list, rest assured that the National’s Boxer will be included on there as well.

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Do you agree with Rupert’s assessment of Boxer? Let us know by leaving a comment below…

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4 Responses

  1. I agree, Boxer is an amazing album.

    I also agree with the fact that Bryan Devendorf is an awesome drummer. He’s up there with Jason McGerr from Death Cab and Justin Peroff from Broken Social Scene for the best indie rock drummer, IMO.

  2. I’m really please i found this site today. I learned a lot reading topic in here. Thank you to making available to world this great site. I will make sure yi visit it everyday.

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