I was relatively late in discovering The National, having only found out about them after their most recent full length effort, 2007’s Boxer. Before this I would admit to being pretty naïve musically, my favourite band having been Kings Of Leon (in my defence they hadn’t at this point composed a ditty about incendiary intercourse), who had, a couple of months previous, released their third album Because Of The Times, which had left me immensely disappointed and in somewhat of a musical crisis; fearing that if I didn’t like the new direction my favourite band was taking then there was little hope for me to enjoy any other music.
Then, after one night of internet searching, I chanced upon The National’s music for the first time via a Youtube video that sets Boxer’s centrepiece, Slow Show, against clips from Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin, Féminin, the multimedia marriage of which works tremendously well both in terms of style and narrative.
On first listen I was brought close to tears and so overwhelmed by the song that, despite it being roughly 1am and raining faintly outside, I decided upon taking a 5 mile walk to meditate on what I had just heard (musical epiphanies make you act a little irrationally, apparently): the initial wash of feedback that is reminiscent of water moving through old rusty pipes; the bright, urgent strums of the acoustic guitar; Matt Berninger’s plaintive vocal; the way the song expands into an elevated chorus as the kick-snare pattern changes from spirited punctuation to a skip in the step of the protagonist. And just as the song breaks dramatically into its piano and tom-tom coda, with the narrator reciting, with mantra-like security, “you know I dreamed about you for 29 years, before I saw you. You know I dreamed about you; I missed you for… for 29 years,” so too did my musical preferences change irrevocably thereafter. I found the music I had been dreaming about and missing for 20 years.