Every week we will be showcasing installments from a special artist discovery series for bands playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival this October from local websites hand-picked by the ACL Festival faithful. This installment comes from Austin Town Hall featuring The National.
If you’re searching for background information on The National, you’re bound to find enough valid information dominating their Wikipedia page, but we’re not here to focus on a bland press release that will give you meaningless insight into the band’s History, Political/Social Support and Discography. We’re here to offer up a look at music as literature, music that provides meaningful views into the modernity in which we live. This is The National, ladies and gentleman.
We live in an age dominated by consumable media, where singles are promoted over albums, where concepts have given way to artifice, where lyrics just don’t mean that much hidden beneath our lo-fi atmospheric waves. But, this isn’t the land where The National lives. They operate beneath these musical mores, over-shadowed by support from your local NPR station, warning to youngsters that once again the age of art, poetry and music has returned, aligning all with the stars, forcing the mundane bands in their costumes and gimmicks to run for cover from the true artists.
In the olden days of bards, love was a dominant factor in art and music, and The National don’t wish to shy away from such subject. Personally, probably one of the best lines written belongs to singer Matt Beringer: “I know I dreamed about you, for 29 years before I saw you.” Isn’t this the line you want to use when you meet someone new? Or is this the line you want whispered to you as you lay beside your true love for the first time? Regardless, it seems such an easy thing to say, yet very few, if any, have said it in such a beautifully simple manner.
Let us not forget, that in music, we also search for introspection, or something to create solidarity between the narrator and ourselves. “I’m sorry I missed you, I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain.” places the listener in exactly the same spot as the narrator, sitting quietly in your room, perhaps with headphones on, wrapped up in the music of The National, ignoring everything else that’s important to you. You can’t really do that when your “sex is on fire.”
Much like all great forms of art, it lives on even after it’s discovered. This will assuredly be the case with “Bloodbuzz Ohio” from the band’s recent album, High Violet. It can be said that our country is in a state of despair, abundant job losses, struggling home sales, etc, and The National sum it all up with “I still owe money to the money to the money that I owe/The floors are falling out from everybody I know.” We relate to it now, but man will never cease to struggle. Never will there be a time when you watch others around you falter, fight against life. In an instant, we feel safe; we feel part of something greater than ourselves, as we all live the same struggle.
Human beings always find that there is a darker side to us all, whether it’s some brief lapse in judgment, or a more permanent fault. You want to warn others, you want to tell them “I was afraid I’d eat your brains/cause I’m evil.” This explains your unwillingness to get close to others, yet your desire to have them in your life. You can’t escape this madness, this turmoil, always fighting this internal conflict. Yet we stay and fight; it’s the human spirit; we must preserver, and move forward with our lives. After all, “who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma” when there’s real demons to battle.
Musically, The National are as moving as any band out there, creating mini-opuses of grandeur that will have you tapping your feet, swaying in tune with the melody of it all. Still, while the kids are blasting chill tunes off their laptops, there are those who will go on with great orchestration, bringing adulthood to the front lines of battlefield art. You’ll hang on Matt’s every word, wondering just how many thoughts he’s stolen from your mind. As you move forward with your life, you’ll need music that serves as the accompaniment, and this is precisely the band that will be with you, now and forever. This is the one great band at ACL Festival with the potential to change your life. I promise, “I wont f**k this over, I’m Mr. November.”
In our ADD cultural view towards the media, The National refuse to give in and beg fans to spend some time with them. After spending some major time digging deep into the band’s lyrics and music, we appreciate what they’re doing even more.
Written by Ryan Ray