FIRST LISTEN: Sleep Well Beast
September 18, 2017 at 11:44 am #15896
@mgico: If you’re referring to the spoken word bits in Walk It Back, these are the lyrics:
“People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
It’s actually a quote attributed to Bush deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, and a hilariously arrogant one at that. TN got into a bit of a beef with Rove recently, when Newsweek (for some reason) got Rove to listen to Walk It Back. There’s some more info here: https://pitchfork.com/news/karl-rove-reviews-the-nationals-rove-referencing-walk-it-back/
RE: the overproduction: I have to admit I’m going back and forth on this. With more listens the various layers, bleeps and bloops are settling in my mind, and I’m not having as many problems with it. Also totally agree that the band should try doing new things, and the experimentation is largely succesful.September 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm #15897
Thank you, Razzmatazz! I appreciate it!September 20, 2017 at 4:56 am #15910
I’ll Still Destroy You has some out of the world lyrics, just an amazing rendition. Blown away by that song.
Like the electronics on Walk it Back.
It’s still growing on me. I think this could be one of their masterstroke albums!September 21, 2017 at 4:21 am #15937
I’m not sure if these are “first impressions” as I’ve now listened to the album about 10ish times. A few random thoughts:
What I’m really liking at this point:
THE GUITAR – this is the most guitar driven album they’ve ever made and I have to say I really like it.
The electronics – I’m really liking the bleeps / boops and the Carl Rove part of Walk it back. At first they did seem a bit out of place, but now they feel totally natural and feel the songs would be a bit flat without them.
Matt’s Obsession with Weed – I like weed and I think it’s fun to hear that Matt likes it too…
Overall I’m really liking this album right now.
The only songs I really don’t like are Day I Die and Carin at the Liquor Store. Day I Die just feels a little flat to me in the sense that it sounds like a radio song (verses-corus-verses-corus, repeat). Carin at the Liquor Store is actually a decent song, but something about the “Forgone Conclusion” lyric bothers me. Not sure what it is…
Songs I love are Nobody Else Will Be There, Walk it Back, The System…, Empire Line, I’ll Still Destroy You, Dark Side of the Gym, and Sleep Well Beast. Every time I listen to Sleep Well Beast I first think of Radiohead (the opening of Kid A the song) and then I think of The National – S/T. I feel like this song is really what they were going for on that first album and that here they’ve FUCKING NAILED IT. Great job guys, way to come full circle.
Turtleneck continues to grow on me. It’s 2017s Available. Nobody Else Will Be There is beautifully understated and would fit perfectly on Boxer, and I think Dark Side of the Gym might be my biggest “grower” on the album. I’m not sure if it’s the reverby guitar or the lazy romantic lyrics, but whatever it is it’s working for me…September 21, 2017 at 4:29 am #15938
BTW, I’m really happy to see so many of my old buds chatting about the new album on here. It really warms my heart to see all these familiar names and faces.
With almost 10 years between my first post and this one, the nostalgia overwhelms me…
October 7, 2017 at 12:05 pm #16033
- This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by Jimbo.
for me, it’s my least favorite album. Turtleneck was better live but still not great, walk it back sent me walking to the bathroom. I understand that bands evolve, just feel like there are too many soulless songs on this. Nobody else, day I die and system are among the 25 best ever national songs IMO but I don’t like the pattern as TWFM was my least favorite album before SWB came out. Once they started playing bloodbuzz, apartment story, slow show and secret meeting it’s abundantly clear that the new songs lack the pulse and soulfulness and spirit of their earlier work. SWB is the first national album that I track skip on. I still think High Violet is underrated by people on here as a complete album. Had they done the original version of terrible love on there and had it included you were a kindness, it would stack up with alligator for me for second place.October 7, 2017 at 12:07 pm #16034
carin at the liquor store reminds me of lucky you in some way which is why i don’t mind it. day I die reminds me of swallow the cap which is why I like it. I don’t think the best song on SWB is better than than any of the best 4-5 songs on TWFM.October 7, 2017 at 3:54 pm #16037
It’s been a few weeks since my first ‘first listen’ post and I’m back to affirm my initial positive reaction and add to it in the wake of dozens of more listens and last night’s show at Forest Hills. I love SWB even more than I do TWFM and HV! There are dimensions and layers to the music and lyrics in SWB that appeal to me on many, many planes. And, as I anticipated, live performances of the songs on SWB are on a whole other level. Last night’s show was spectacular. Indeed, the only criticism of SWB that I can muster today is that the recorded album can’t compete with the live performances, but that obviously is unfair comparison! 🙂 The National impressed me in a way last night that I didn’t think they could still do, and I’ve seen them quite a few times since 2005, loving every moment. Incredibly, amazingly, this band is getting better! This is not the location for a full-on review of their oeuvre or yesterday evening’s show, but in my life The National are starting to take the space that was once occupied by REM and U2 many moons ago. (BTW, I still love Turtleneck and cannot understand why anyone complains about it!)October 8, 2017 at 3:41 am #16040
my issue i think is not enough bryan on the album, or at least not enough drum-driven tracksOctober 8, 2017 at 10:32 am #16041
After more than a month of listening to the album I feel like I’m ready to write my opinion on it.
To be honest after listeting to their early great stuff like Walk if Back (Roman Candle) and Empire Line (Find a Way) I was really expecting a lot from their new album. And after its release I was a little confused because among the rest of songs there were no such good things as those two (except of Carin at the Liquor Store and Guilty Party which for some reason slightly remind me of Pink Rabbits and Runaway respectively).
I was hoping they wouldn’t put Turtleneck into the album and when they did I was really sorry for that. For me it’s the worst song The National ever written and it clearly doesn’t fit into the album. Sounds somewhat better live but still can’t catch on it.
A few songs like Nobody Else Will Be There and I’ll Still Destroy You really have grown on me in the process of listening.
I’m going to their concert in Amsterdam and maybe I’ll change my mind about some things lately 🙂
October 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm #16043
- This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by TallSaint.
couldn’t agree more. Nobody else…i’ll still destroy you, day i die and carin are all good to really good and i like the lyrics to born to beg but this just feels like a regression. TWFM was a quiet grower but this is yet to grow on me. last night i had a long drive so tried to go all the way through and reverted to high violet after 4 songsOctober 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm #16103
Jimbo, I think you hit the nail on the head there about ‘Day I Die’ sounding like a radio song. Something about it bothers me and by jove, I think you’ve got it!
Nobody Else Will Be There, I love – I think it could grow to be one of my favourite tracks. It’s has an ominous tone that really gets me in the gut, and sets you up for the rest of the album. I’ll Still Destroy You is an absolute gem as well.
Walk It Back is easily the best thing on the album…until the Karl Rove bit. Sorry. I feel like the song has a great rumbling, menacing tension…and then it ruins it all by turning into a Public Service Broadcasting* track half way through. The tension dissipates and it feels so disappointing.
I was enjoying Carin At The Liquor Store also, until someone reminded me of this…
* I don’t know if this band are well known outside of the UK?October 24, 2017 at 2:02 pm #16109
I like most of the songs, but the overall sound and aesthetic of the album I find unappealing. Electronic instrumentation has always sounded drab to me, and the songs themselves get depressing. It sounds a lot like the Frightened Rabbit album Aaron produced last year, which I did like a fair bit despite sharing some of the qualities I just complained about, so maybe SWB will grow on me down the road. I don’t like focusing on negatives these days, so I’ll leave it at that.
I do love “Nobody Else Will Be There”, and I am in the pro-Turtleneck camp. The latter gives the album some much needed levity.October 24, 2017 at 2:43 pm #16111
I pretty much agree with almost everyting my old friend James says here, apart from his take on Day I Die (which i quite like). I must also confess I have a strong dislike for Turteneck, but overall I’m fond of this album. There’s a nice discussion about it in the comments section of Stereogum (the article about the new video). 🙂
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