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The National Alligator Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Tales of drying deltas and stolen record collections make an uneasy soundtrack for...

Chris Hilliard 2005

Bring us your tired, bring us your sad and bring us your weary. David Ryan Adams may have crooned that he started his country band because punk rock is too hard to sing, but don't believe a word the man says. Country music is the last great refuge of the song; it's a far better home than Rock 'n' Roll will ever be.

How curious it is though that the true torchbearers of traditional Country come so far from Nashville. Holed up in Ohio, The National must have been raised on all Cash and no Kenny. Saved from a life of big hat music, their music is almost defiant in its lack of polish. Maybe it's the desire for the plaintive and the true that fills every Wilco gig with bar-hugging 30-somethings?

Tales of drying deltas and stolen record collections make an uneasy soundtrack for shopping at Sainsbury's but is the perfect accompaniment for an evening reading Steinbeck.

On their third record Alligator, The National has clearly kept the studio radiators on full blast to maintain the muggy atmosphere. Unfortunately the songs themselves are rather undercooked. The melodies are almost translucent. What draws me in is the slurred drawl of Matt Berninger, who has a touch of the Triffids in his booming baritone. 'I know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses' he sings with all the joie de vivre of a pallbearer.

It's been argued by afficionados that within Leonard Cohen's melancholic work is a thick vein of comedy. Any wise man in the autumn of his years must realise and savour life's surreal quirks. Berninger also sounds suitably comfortable as the bemused outsider as he quips 'I'm a perfect piece of ass' on the standout "All The Wine".

This record is aural wallpaper par-excellence, a wash of arpeggios and gently lulling piano. In that it is sweet and utterly inoffensive. There are however relatively few rousing refrains or truly memorable moments.

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