The National’s “First Two Pages of Frankenstein” a Musical Page-Turner for the Indie Set

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There’s something that’s dare I say comfortable and inviting when it comes to the first lines of The National’s “Once Upon a Poolside”, the first song off their latest LP First Two Pages of Frankenstein. The song has their usual heady blend of self-conscious self-introspection, set to a piano tuned out like a lullaby to back the pain of the track’s fears.

It almost feels like a strange turn of phrase to say a song could contain an emotion like lyrical fear. But that’s largely been the bread and butter of The National’s sound, especially as the group has evolved behind the baritone broadsides of frontman Matt Berninger. Fear of changes, fear of age, the fear of proving ourselves to others. Those truly honest emotions we may not openly say or describe, but we feel just behind the glimmer in our eyes. 

I imagine Frankenstein must mean a lot to the group. Reading that Berninger walked into the studio for it with practically no material lyrically/melodically automatically makes me anxious as a writer. I can’t imagine still being able to pull out a win under those circumstances, but make no mistake: Frankenstein is a win. 

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And that’s despite flying in the face of a full on depression. I know, The National are basically the poster boys for making jokes about sadness, who can sort the fact from creative fiction? But it’s something different as a writer to not have the words for a deadline or to be unable to do something you’ve just always been able to do. 

It makes you wonder if the skill that got you there is gone.

But, in the end, The National find a way to persevere. “Eucalyptus” , “The Alcott”, and “This Isn’t Helping” are gems, with Berninger shining once again alongside Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers. “Ice Machines” feels like a nod to old school Boxer track “Slow Show”, while the wanderlust of closing track “Send for Me” fits skillfully amongst the band’s best sign-offs.

So don’t sell The National short here with First Two Pages of Frankenstein. It’s worth staying for the whole book.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

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