Mu­sic for the apoca­lypse

Seven al­bums in, The Na­tional have be­come our premier doom­say­ers



Sleep Well Beast ★★★★ Since The na­tional re­leased sixth al­bum ‘Trou­ble Will Find Me’ in 2013, it’s fair to say the world has found noth­ing but trou­ble. Fol­low-up ‘Sleep Well Beast’ con­tin­ues the theme, ask­ing on the rol­lock­ing ‘Day i Die’, “the day I die – where will we be?”. in a bunker, shel­ter­ing from a Trumpian nu­clear war at this rate.

it’s all very 2017. And it’s an al­bum on which Matt Berninger, Aaron and Bryce Dess­ner, and Bryan and Scott Deven­dorf stray out­side the pre­vi­ously clearly de­fined lines of what The na­tional sound is. it’s more ex­per­i­men­tal lyri­cally. For ex­am­ple, on

‘Walk it Back’, a skit­ter­ing ex­plo­ration of anx­i­ety, we hear an ex­cerpt of for­mer deputy chief of staff to Ge­orge W Bush, Karl Rove, quot­ing an aide.

And it’s more ex­per­i­men­tal son­i­cally, too. ‘i’ll Still De­stroy You’ starts with synths Jamie xx would dig. ‘Turtle­neck’, one for fans of Steve Jobs’ sar­to­rial de­ci­sions, is a rev­e­la­tion. A strong Pix­ies vibe and rau­cous licks that duel to­gether hap­pily see The na­tional at their hard­est, with Matt rail­ing against “an­other man in s**tty suits”.

They’ve been added to the stead­fast el­e­ments that make The na­tional so good: clever turns of phrase, ge­nius sto­ry­telling, Bryan Deven­dorf’s march­ing-band drums, de­light­ful ar­range­ments and pi­ano and brass that work well to­gether. All th­ese are put to ex­pert ef­fect here on the sub­lime ‘Dark Side Of The

Gym’, which is a per­fect blend of old and new.

not ev­ery­thing works, and ‘Guilty Party’ is the un­for­tu­nate vic­tim of this band’s habit of chuck­ing a mo­not­o­nous dud or two on ev­ery record. But hey, this is The na­tional at a time when a na­tion­al­ist heads the most pow­er­ful coun­try in the world. They’ve ad­justed ac­cord­ingly. Play it on re­peat in the bunker. Han­nah Jane Parkinson

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