I, dear reader, have made the big time.
The National "Alligator" (Beggars Banquet)
By Robert Cleves
Monday. Sep 19, 2:06 AM
Flacid crooning ruins an otherwise instrumentally well executed album.
I remember listening to an advance copy of this record back in March while on the way back home on the W train. After listening to three songs, I quickly dug into my bag for my copy of Obituary’s Slowly We Rot. Five months later, nothing has changed.
Alligator, the third studio recording from the Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati quintet, features Matt Berninger’s pseudo-Leonard Cohen baritone voice with two sets of brothers playing Tindersticks meets Echo And The Bunnymen-type music, full of brooding, transparent melodies and no hooks.
“Secret Meeting,” with its engaging guitar strumming, off-beat drumming, and interesting atmospherics, gets Alligator off to a promising start, but then is ruined by Berninger’s self-deprecating, monotone and conversational talk-singing. The cheese factor in the lyrical department throughout the album reaches Ben Gibbard-like levels with gems like “didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room?”, "serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon, you had a permanent piece of my medium-sized American heart,” and “it's a common fetish for a doting man to ballerina on the coffee table cock in hand.” Talk about trying too hard! Keep that drag-queen cock-in-hand stuff to yourself, brother.
With his “a shot of whiskey with my can of Pabst”-like poetry, Berninger talk-sings his hardest in order to sway you into believing that he has something interesting to say, but ends up getting on your nerves like that Polo shirt wearing dude who comes to shows alone looking for friends. Before you know it, you’re weaving through the crowd like a crazy man, trying to lose him because apparently he’s got infrared vision and he won’t stop telling you how AWESOME Interpol’s Antics is. All of the “I’m so sorry for everything”s on “Baby, We’ll Be Fine” are pathetic. Berninger can apologize all he wants, but it won’t bring back my three and a half minutes that I wasted listening to his pathetic song. “We’re Out Looking For Astronauts” is the type of ditty you’d make up in your head to keep yourself from throwing up on the cab ride home after a good night of drinking. At least that kind of shitty poetry is all in good fun – and alcohol induced. “Karen” is dreary, limp, and almost as annoying as Sujan from Matador not returning e-mails or phone calls. SNAP!
Berninger’s flaccid crooning and “I’m drunk, I’m sorry, and I miss you”s are the Achilles’ Heel of an otherwise instrumentally well executed and wonderfully produced album that in the end, falls flat on it’s face. “I’m so sorry for everything.”