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NAtional

A self portrait by Nancy Berninger from the inside booklet.

 

The National have just released their sixth studio album, Trouble Will Find Me on 4AD. It seems an appropriate time to pierce the bubble of a band who have seduced cloth-eared critics and music fans forced to feast on a steady diet of tripe and cold chips for years now. So bad is the music scene in 2013 that anyone wearing a suit, writing ‘self-assured, confident’ songs and performing at a middle distance pace will be lauded high and low, and everywhere inbetween.

Now, we have to endure another round of half-considered reviews, as critics become immersed in the stupifying thought-process of ‘never mind the quality feel the width’

Let’s start with the cover, a grim-looking facade that would not be out of place on an Interpol record. Trust me, that’s no compliment.The artwork inside, while abstract and obtuse, would have made for a more fitting cover.

Listening to the disk is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. The opening track, I Should Live In Salt, is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km speed limit for its entirety.

For the record, Porky listened to every second of this album, twice in fact, in case I had been too hasty first up, but believe me, I would write the same thing after 20 listens. Of course, I would have thrown myself off the nearest bridge before then.

I didn’t expect much from Tropical Popsicle‘s debut Dawn of Delight (Talitres) but have found that it’s a surprisingly satisfying recording.

TropicalIt is the kind of record that will garner all sort of reference points, from 1960s garage psych to The Horrors, and the press release namechecks all sorts of genres, sub-genres, beaches and indie acts over the decades. The lynchpin of the quartet is Tim Haines, who has history in not-quite-great acts, and is joined by Kyle Whatley, Ryan Hand and Chase Elliott.

They love 7” singles and enticing covers featuring alluring ladies free of the hindrance of clothing, and musically, they are a tight unit who I would imagine would be mesmerising live with some drug-induced Len Lye-style psychedelic cut-and-paste footage playing on loop in the background. I can’t fault it really, and it is an album that could be played without resorting to the fast forward button, but the album really comes alive on Ghost Beacons which sounds like the Stone Roses meets Pink Floyd, with some immense, and enthralling guitar work. Previous single, The Beach With No Footprints is dreamy pop-psych that captures the shoegazing tag the record label seems to appreciate.

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