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Boxer

4.4 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 22, 2007
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Product Description

The follow-up to 2005's "Alligator" is filled with lush arrangements and sees the band incorporating new instrumentation and expanded musical elements such as piano, trumpet, and more prominent background vocals. "...churning grooves and shambling new wave rips, turning up depressed guitar poetry that's both elegantly wasted and kinda murky" - Rolling Stone. "The National traffic in poignant moments of heartbreak and regret, but pain has rarely sounded so beautiful" - Spin.

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With Boxer, the National have reached four albums into their increasingly lauded career, never hurrying the tempo, never over-reaching in volume or instrumental density. Instead, the quintet's balanced on a pin, emotionally austere, if not utterly downhearted, finding brilliantly dusky ways for Matt Berninger's lovelorn voice to mesh with a pair of unobtrusive guitars and, here, an occasional phalanx of piano, horns, and strings. The tunes roll off slowly, Berninger's lyrics hugging the instruments with a sad brawn, rough-hewn as the drums and bass toy with angularity (try "Mistaken for Strangers," for one) but end up woven by that voice. Drummer Bryan Devendorf presses the songs forward repeatedly, as on "Start a War," where he gently thumps the time as the acoustic guitars frame and dot the melody, coalescing as the drums starkly chisel the melody. Nary a distortion pedal is harmed on Boxer, giving the National a magnetism so forlorn that you can't stop listening. --Andrew Bartlett
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 22, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Beggars Banquet
  • ASIN: B000O5AYCA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,952 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Simon on May 22, 2007
Format: Audio CD
The first thing you'll notice about this album is how slow it is. Only two songs, "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Apartment Story", rock in any kind of recognizable way. Others like "Racing Like a Pro" and "Ada" barely resemble rock music at all. The band's previous album, Alligator, was full of big rock songs and topped many critics and bloggers best of 2005 lists. This has largely been abandoned on the follow-up Boxer, a series of dark, mellow tracks, populated with low baritone vocals, horns, strings, pianos, etc.

If you've followed the band's previous work, you may be slightly disappointed by the lack of screaming or upbeat rock songs. There's nothing like "Slipping Husband", "Available", "Abel" or "Mr. November" to be found on here. What's left is a great mellow record that sounds like a continuation of the band's Cherry Tree EP from 2004. Highlights include "Brainy", "Slow Show", "Ada" and "Gospel". Give this record a little bit of time to grow on you. It was just released today, but I've been listening to a leaked copy for about two months (I bought an official copy today).

This band was originally labeled as alt-country, but has now become darker and more artsy than YHF-era Wilco. Each album has been an interesting change of pace and atmosphere. Check out their previous albums The National (2001), Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003), Cherry Tree Ep (2004) and Alligator (2005). I highly recommend them all, including this one. This is one of the best American bands making music today.
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Format: Audio CD
When did rock music get so beautiful again? Yeah, It had something to do with folks getting sick of garage rock (White Stripes aside) and critics never forgetting the heartbroken punk of Joy Division. But it also came from the alt country invasion of the 1990s, the dawning of Wilco World and the success of such over-played buggers as U2 and Coldplay.

But really, the fusion of rock and, gosh darn it, gorgeousness, has gotten pretty pervasive of late, with dudes like Andrew Bird and groups like our dear, overhyped Arcade Fire. But I'd argue that the masters of the Rock Can Be Pretty Without Being Awful movement are Brooklyn outsiders the National. If you like moody, wry rock, I dare you not to fall in love with this record. It trumps Wilco, and it makes Interpol look chilly and terribly detached from the real world.

I came to The National's game, like so many people, with 2004's "Alligator". (Buy it now, really.)

And I love these guys when they rock, like they do on that album, and which they don't do that much of here. But the Nats do show perhaps a stronger, trickier skill on "Boxer:" the ability to musically experiment without coming off like a band at war (hi Jeff Tweedy!), the ability to fuse rock and folk without sounding like wusses, the jujitsu to channel a mournful-yet-upbeat sound that somehow brings to mind a 30something everyman. (In songs like the stalkerish "Brainy," you're unsure if you should hug lead singer Matt Berninger or issue a restraining order against him.)

"Mistaken for Strangers" is "Boxer"'s showiest number. A jangly, dual guitar-driven anthem about being out of touch with your peeps, it manages to be both danceable and a bit depressing, which is part of the band's appeal.
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Format: Audio CD
This is the most subdued and interesting record from The National yet, and I firmly believe it will garner them wider attention and praise. This may not be a positive thing for a band that seems to thrive on being "the best thing you've never heard," but after two stellar albums back-to-back, they deserve it.

Boxer is a great example of style and substance combined, and it's likable on so many different levels that it's difficult to cover all the bases even after 5 or 6 attentive listens. Matt Berenger is a flexible and fascinating lyricist, moving from personal introspection to political commentary to clever, silly wordplay, sometimes all in one song. In a genre of music where music is written in a very formulaic way, with just the right balance of malaise and heartbreak, Berenger's deep baritone exudes authenticity.

Immediately you will notice that there is no point of release on Boxer--what Mr. November was to Alligator, or Slipping Husband to Sad Songs. Drummer Bryan Devendorf is just as high in the mix as usual, and his complex rhythms and subtlety (see: Brainy) are striking. The album maintains a tense balance of tension and beauty that reveals itself to you over time.

At first I was highly suspicious of claims that The National writes "albums that grow on you." It seemed like music journalists were just trying to cover themselves for completely missing the boat on Alligator the first time around (and they're still using it as an excuse, instead of saying "we messed up"). But there is definitely some truth to it. The band throws away their catchiest tunes, because "it's the odd ducks that stick with us." There's very few familiar themes to latch on to, and The National is a band that requires patience and trust.

Boxer is breathtaking, beautiful, and an impressive experiment of sorts: that this band can change their sound, and go in an orchestral direction, while still producing something relevant.
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