By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
"I love, absolutely love New York," he says. "But you never quite feel 100 percent at ease. And so I always feel a little bit like a stranger in paradise, and that comes into the songs."
The National's meditations on their adopted hometown are far more ambiguous than the place-songs of, say, Bruce Springsteen. The sentiments, however, are just as powerful. Boxer is a quieter album than Alligator, but it elaborates on that record's obsession with constructing a meaningful, individual existence in the middle of an enormous city. The National doesn't pretend to have answers, but sometimes the questions are more than enough. And Boxer has questions, insights and beauty in spades.
"The reaction to Boxer has been incredibly good so far," Berninger says. "At first people were expecting an album full of screaming songs, like [Alligator's] 'Abel' or 'Mr. November.' It's a process. You start to hear what we're doing, and it's a very different thing." He pauses, then laughs. "But the explosive [songs] are fun as hell."
Too true. For all of the sadness and longing and urban alienation, for all the lost love and creeping madness, the National is still fun as hell. Catharsis can be joyous, and punch-drunk shout-alongs are good for the soul.
One thing is certain: Summer is here.