The National released their 5th studio album in May 2010. High Violet was the first album released on 4AD records. And strangely, the first of their albums I could not get into.
I tend to be pretty much on the fence about The National. Certain songs stand out to me, while others wouldn’t even qualify as background music.The Boxer, their previous studio release, really struck a chord with me and I still enjoy sitting down with it. So when Clay threw out the latest, I didn’t hesitate. I was really looking forward to it.
Sadly, disappointingly, and painfully I was let down. From great riffs to awesome ambient space noise, instrumentally there is a lot offered here. Musically the band strives to take off. Just as the songs are aiming for liftoff and you expect some epic vocals to come in, it dies. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t prepared for Matt Berninger’s baritone voice. One thing I’ve learned for certain with these guys is that you can almost always know what to expect vocally. Pleasure, excitement, and range just don’t exist in these songs and their lyrics.
Songs such as “Anyone’s Ghost”, “Sorrow”, and “Runaway” work well with the deep vocals, however, coming in 3 out of 11 tracks, doesn’t quite qualify as a winner in my book.
For those who enjoy this album, be aware there is an extended version out there. The bonus disc includes 8 additional tracks. I can’t bring myself to listen to additional tracks. I almost feel like I need a prescription for Prozac just to listen to the album again. I was drug down…and down. I couldn’t help but feel I was being audibly kicked by a man in a smoky gin joint. I was left feeling exhausted. The picture High Violet paints for me is one of desperation and pain. It was as if I stumbled out of the glaring sun while being hung-over, only to find myself in a darkly lit lounge with weathered old men sitting in cracked leather booths listening to a drunken poet rambling about his experiences while drinking scotch and smoking a cheap cigar.
Now let me just say, this review is being posted late and there is reason for that. I tried to give myself time between listens with this; allowed it some serious time to grow on me. It didn’t. I really don’t think it will. Perhaps in low doses I could grow to appreciate this in part or, one day, as a whole. Much like cough medicine, I tried to keep up with it, but it wasn’t the most pleasant to swallow. I really only got this album based on the previous release; I can’t see myself hanging on to it.