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Album Review

The National may sound like a garage band turned down, but there's as much primal energy lurking behind Alligator as in any mop-topped group of city kids with bloodstained Danelectros in a dusty warehouse. While Matt Berninger's lyrics and conversational delivery rely heavily on the kind of literate self-absorption that fuels so much of the indie rock scene today, he never comes off as preachy or unaware that the world would manage just fine without him; rather, he uses metaphor and humor as bullet points for a profound sense of displacement and anger. Out-of-the-blue statements like "f*ck me and make me a drink," from the brooding but lovely "Karen," are effective because the listener is brought into the story slowly, almost amiably, before being led to the plank. Berninger's wry, filthy, and often eloquently sad tales of materialism, sex, and loneliness are augmented by the stellar duel-sibling attack of Aaron Dessner (guitar) and Bryce Dessner (guitar) and Scott Devendorf (guitar/bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums), who flesh out each track with so many little creative flourishes that it takes a few listens to break them down into palatable portions. There are upbeat moments found within — "Lit Up" and "Looking for Astronauts" — but for the most part the National are content with playing the genial fatalists, and while "All the Wine" seems designed to serve as the record's desolate backbone, "Baby, We'll Be Fine," with its quick changes, lush orchestration, and winsome refrain of "I'm so sorry for everything" is, despite an elegiac delivery, Alligator's loneliest track, and like each part of this fine collection of city-weary poetry, it's as brief as it is affecting.

Customer Reviews


(written in may of 2007:) I'm completely comfortable saying that this is the best album I've ever bought in my life. I've been listening to it for 2 years now, and it has more of a lasting effect than any other album I've listened to. Every detail of Alligator, lyrically and musically, feels so meticulously perfected and seamless that it's hard for me to imagine that a band just sat down and wrote all these unforgettable songs. It's bigger than anything I can describe. I've been writing music for a great deal of my life, and this album is everything I aspire to achieve in my career. The National deserve any and every success that may come their way. I know it's ridiculous for me to try and build such high expectations for a single release, but buying this album was one of the best decisions I've made. Bye.

A slow burn.

This is a band I stumbled into only because my old college roommate was the good friend of the drummer. After some pressure from my buddy I purchased the album for the drive home. After a first listen I was not a big fan. In fact I felt a little upset I had purchased the album. However, after a second listen, something strange happened. I began to notice the nuances and really began to enjoy the music. Not a week goes by without a full listening of this album. It may take a few listens to get that "slow burn" going but you will come to realize that Alligator truly is one of the best albums of 2005.

One of the Greatest Records Ever Made

History will be our guide, and this record will be there alongside Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", Guided By Voices's "Bee Thousand", and The Wrens' "The Meadowlands", and the like when we look back in 20 years. These songs have changed my life so many times I lost count. The entire album is the musical equivalent of a Mark Rothko masterpiece or a Hermann Hesse novel. It is nothing short of true Art, and the world is a better place because of it.


Formed: 1999 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although formed during the post-punk revival of the late '90s, the National took inspiration from a wider set of influences, including country-rock, Americana, indie rock, and Brit-pop. The lineup began taking shape in Ohio and officially cemented itself in New York, with baritone vocalist Matt Berninger joining forces with two sets of brothers — Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums), and Aaron (guitar) and Bryce Dessner (guitar). After establishing themselves as a live act, the bandmates...
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