Trouble Will Find Me
May 21, 2013 Web Exclusive
By this time, you pretty much know what you're going to get with a new album from The National. Lots of sad lyrics, dark humor, shimmering guitars, pensive strings, and a sneakily good rhythm section that ends up being the heartbeat of the whole affair.
But you know what? In this case, a little predictability is just fine. Because The National know what they do so well. Some might lob the accusation of staleness, but when music sounds this on-edge, it might not ever be possible for them to be too safe.
Trouble Will Find Me, the band's sixth full-length album, is a more cohesive experience than any of their other albums. It builds on the mostly mid-tempo High Violet but punches it up with fewer draggy ballads and includes more pristine instrumentation. Trouble also includes some of lead singer Matt Berninger's most cutting-and, probably not coincidentally, best-lyrics. While some lyricists might use the object of their scorn as a catalyst for incisive lyrics, all Berninger needs is what's going on in his own head. "When I enter a room, I do not light it up/Fuck," Berninger sings on lead single "Demons," as if he can't believe his own inability to muster the happiness he wants to. "I've been a friend and a fuck-up, and everything, but I'll never be anything you want me to be," he says on "Slipped."
If it all sounds unrelentingly grim, well... much of it is. In fact, this is likely the first album from The National that's so concerned with what's going on in Berninger's (or the characters he inhabits) head, over and above other things like politics or reeling with life in one's 20s and 30s. Fortunately, Trouble also provides glimmers of hope-"I Need My Girl" is likely the most baldly romantic song Berninger has ever written. Lines such as "Remember when you lost your shit and drove your car into the garden?" become a wry memory between friends and lovers, something less about the event itself and more how it knit two peoples' histories together.
Berninger's ability to turn a phrase also gives some points of light-even if it's a pretty sad sentiment, "I was a television version of a person with a broken heart" (from "Pink Rabbits," which also manages to sardonically namedrop Morrissey's Bona Drag) is still one hell of a line.
None of this mentions the music, which, in The National's typical fashion, is wonderful. The National have a talent for making songs seem simple until you start to poke at them and realize there are all kinds of complicated things happening. From the slinky time signatures of "Demons" to the bass-driven post-punk of "Graceless," the songs are uniformly terrific. Even the ones that seem boring ("Sea of Love") eventually gallop to a satisfying high point. Overall, Trouble Will Find Me is another accomplished entry for a band that doesn't seem to know how to do anything else. (www.americanmary.com)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10