- 08 Sep 17
Cincinnatti's finest channel our troubled times with winning comeback
They’ve never been the life and soul of the party but The National’s seventh LP is, even by their standards, uneasy and claustrophobic. That it arrives nearly nine months into the Trump Presidency surely is no coincidence: Sleep Well Beast communicates a deep disquiet at the state of the world (or, at least, the state of America), though, The National being The National, the melodrama is conjured with a stately grace rather than hyperbole and hysteria.
This may be the first great rock record of the Trump Epoch, but it’s too rich and subtle to qualify as one note protest album. It will furthermore assuage worries that, after 2013’s thoughtful yet tune-deficient Trouble Will Find Me, that the band have given up writing keening pop songs. ‘The Day I Die’ is classic National: heartbreaking and swooning, Matt Berninger’s croon perfectly poised between triumph and despair. There’s more experimentation than before, as well. ‘Turtleneck’ surfs on rockabilly guitar while ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ blends piano and a creaking electronic beat.
Trump is never called out explicitly. However, Sleep Well Beast deftly captures the turmoil in which we have all become ensnared as we live through America’s Emotional Breakdown. This is a worthy addition to one of the darkest, smartest canons in contemporary rock.