The National: “First Two Pages of Frankenstein” Album Review – Concise ninth with A-list roster


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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reel back your 1818 text of everyone’s favourite monster – but this creation is more hopeful than a despairing one.

The indie rock collectives’ ninth studio album was not an easy album to make. For the first time in their progressive journey of transient indie, it was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end. But fortunately for their ever-devoted league of pyjama-dons and coffee-drinkers, Dressner’s “sad-dad” broil managed to come back together at their upstate New York studio and approach everything from a different angle: “letting go of attachment and giving way to what we do best.”

Seemingly so, the pay-out has paid off.

A far more commercially-sided project compared to the obscurities of 2019’s I Am Easy To Find, it still is a coequally beautiful album. Wrapping around a melancholic hope we find in the very creation of a monster, First Two Pages of Frankenstein brings Dressners’ familiar echoic melodies all the while compering with a plentiful guest list that add so much to things here.

Phoebe Bridgers’ voice blends so perfectly with Matt Berninger’s and reflects the incomparable songs of This Isn’t Helping and Your Mind Is Not Your Friend as standouts on the album. A more condensed songwriting, it sees Matt and co deliver an intimate setting, an almost stripped-back interior to The National – this is us now, and this is where we’re going. Despite the break-up tensions amounting through the recording of this album, the connections between one song to another has been breathtaking.

The compelling narratives shown on hotel bar perspective, The Alcott is a strong resemblance to Matt’s deep dive into what sort of an album he was intending on making. Undoubtedly made stronger by the magical back-and-forth between Taylor Swifts’ wispy quips made throughout the song, seemingly connections to her own catalogue; “everything that’s mine is a landmine / Did my love aid and abet you?”

Tropic Morning News was the first sleuth work we had to come up with what sort of album we had with their ninth. A gloomy partake in the subscription of doom-scrolling, Tropic Morning News is a pensive chapter to the bands’ ninth – and a direct cutaway from the depravities of Trouble Will Find Me in 2013 – an album very much swirled in its dark introversion, “The tropic morning news was on / There’s nothing stopping me now / From saying all the painful parts out loud.”

What about the last of the good ones? The disparate Eucalyptus sees the salvaging of a relationship already broken, as an emotive Matt delves into the banging-head-in-a-wall back and forth, You should take it, ’cause I’m not gonna take it / You should take it, I’m only gonna break it..” An encompassing guitar solo strikes through, a turning-point in a song now really riling up to its pitfall. While Send For Me is another beautiful footnote to end the album on, New Order T-Shirt shows the cognitive working-outs of beautiful acoustic cloud-arpeggios and soothing bass lines befitting the role to The National returning. Not to their best, mind, as the album doesn’t have a glimpse on the roster of Trouble Will Find Me. A truly fleshed-out album with a plethora of ideas strewn across a 13-pager, this album seems very one-dimensional. Somewhat safe; eager to finish; nothing but to satisfy the insatiable commercial hunger of alt-indie.

Still though, equally exciting to have such a loved band back in our ears again.

Thankfully, you can also catch them on a worldwide tour this year too.

3 responses to “The National: “First Two Pages of Frankenstein” Album Review – Concise ninth with A-list roster”

  1. EclecticMusicLover avatar

    A thoughtful and beautifully-written review of a beautiful album Alex! I love their music, songwriting and arrangements, and Matt Berninger’s voice is at once both comforting and jarring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. manvmusic avatar

      Ah I’m glad you’re a fan, Jeff! It’s nice to hear from you again. Yes, their music has a beautifully unsettling motif to it… it’s mega that they’re back to making what they do best. You hoping to catch them on tour over there in the US?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. EclecticMusicLover avatar

        Alas, they’re playing the Greek Theater in L.A. at the end of the month, but I’ve already got tickets to see another show (lovelytheband & Beach Weather) on June 7, and just can’t take more time off from work, spend more $$ on a hotel room and do that two and a half hour drive twice in little more than a week.


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