TRACK LIFE: The National – “Don’t Swallow the Cap”
Welcome to Track Life, a daily column in which Jacob Knight shares what he thinks to be the best in music, both new and old.
You probably won’t see me post two tracks by the same artist in the same week ever again, but I’m kind of excited the by the prospects of what I’m hearing with this new National song. While I called Monday’s single, “Demons“, a bit of “dad rock” that followed the band’s already established formula, “Don’t Swallow the Cap” sees the National stripping themselves down a bit. Harkening back to such Boxer bits as “Brainy” (which “Cap” basically borrows the bass line and time signature from), the cut finds the National doing that other thing they do best: aping Joy Division.
This is the National at the absolute height of their powers. While they’ve made their bigger name off of their bombastic ballads of disaffection in the 21st century, I’ve been waiting patiently for the band to return to their nearly drum and bass roots. While Berninger’s distance and sad sack delivery are still ever present, so are some of the National’s more subdued (yet no less powerful) traits. The subtle piano plinks and whiny guitar feedback remind me of first seeing them in smaller clubs and bars; their unqiue instrumentation adding a sense of dread to whatever hole I was currently in. The National were always atmospheric rockers first and record selling indie stars second, and its good to see them remembering that fact.