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Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers

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Album Review

For a band that's been compared to Joy Division, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the National sure sounds a lot more like the Czars or Uncle Tupelo on this sophomore album Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. Where the band might lack Joy Division's angular fury, Cohen's existentialism, and Cave's vampiric attack, vocalist Matt Berninger and company whip up a murky alt country meets chamber pop vibe that's quite potent. The five-piece mostly keeps things on the country side of the fence during the album's first half, as slide guitars and fiddles overpower just about any hint of rock styling except the drumbeat, occasional feedback, and some screeching guitar freak-outs. Toward the album's close, the songs' textures finally shift from country to indie rock. Berninger is more than content to roam pastures featuring small patches of emo, sadcore, and artsy strings, clearly wearing his influences on his sleeve. Indeed, album-opener "Cardinal Song" could very easily be mistaken for the Tindersticks or Cousteau, with a passage that is a virtual note for note reconstruction of a Red House Painters song. Though the band focuses on slow atmospheric songs, it's when it kicks out the jams that the music is the most compelling. Case in point is "Slipping Husband," with its fine melodic waves and a perfectly placed bout of screaming. "Trophy Wife" presents yet another influence; the song seems a dead ringer for the Shins. It's hard to shake the feeling that the National is highly influenced by and studied in the bands it emulates, but the album is still worth a listen for fans of moody country-tinged lounge music. With so many influences rearing their heads and ample musical chops in the bag, the National might not be masters of any one genre, but it creates a fine amalgam nonetheless.

Customer Reviews

Loved it.

Before The National were big and musically increible, they had to work for it; and this album is what helped them grow to success in the music world. I love this album; it has a lot of brilliant tracks that will keep "someone with taste," addicted. The bands early efforts were not created and released in vain; they have more than the potential to be heard. So, purchase this baby, sit down, sip some whiskey, and let the beauty of this work of art take you for a ride.

This band is my new drug.

@Robert Marchione: I just bought this and I don't think you understand The National. The screaming on "Slipping Husband" & "Murder Me Rachael" helps convey the frustration the characters are feeling. Coming from Matt B., it doesn't sound forced or gratuitous. I've been discovering their albums backwards and I've never been displeased w the screams. "Abel" and "Mr. November" are amazing, cathartic and great driving songs. If you've loved The National's other stuff, this WON'T disappoint.

Jump on it...

The National bandwagon, that is. Boxer is by far their best album, but this is my second favorite. If you like to get your cry on, this is a good place to start.


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 made...
Full Bio