Album Reviews

The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein – Album Review

The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein – Album Review
by Killian Laher

The National have made a long, slow transition from meaning an awful lot to a few people to meaning a lot to an awful lot of people.  The music itself has also transitioned, to a default setting of slow and ponderous, which is something they do pretty well.

It opens with the piano ballad Once Upon A Poolside (featuring Sufjan Stevens on backing vocals), which like a great deal of this album, is very easy on the ears, if a little dull. The following track, Eucalyptus has a bit more propulsion about it. Bryan Devendorf’s drumming has become much less central to the band’s sound over the years, but it’s present here to accompany Matt Berninger singing “what about the Cowboy Junkies, what about the Afghan Whigs”, in what feels like a mini-epic.  New Order T-Shirt comes gradually into view over twinkling guitars and shimmering keyboards.  By the time you get to This Isn’t Helping you start think, this is all very tasteful, but a bit one-paced and samey.

Tropic Morning News, with its programmed beats, comes as a welcome change of pace, and a gorgeous, descending melody, but a distinct lack of a singalong chorus.  The downbeat Alien has a bit of drumming as it develops, and later, the uplifting Grease In Your Hair has a fair groove to it.

Taylor Swift features on the, yes, slow ballad The Alcott, while Your Mind Is Not Your Friend is another slice of middle-aged softness, featuring Phoebe Bridgers this time.  Though as ballads go, the final track Send For Me is exquisitely mopey yet uplifting.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, and fans of the band are likely to enjoy the album, but some will expect more from the National.

Tropic Morning News

Categories: Album Reviews, Header, Music

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