As contemplative as it is big: the indie rock institution plays songs like outstretched hands.
The National have been dancing to two different beats for years. On the one hand there is a need to write big songs, big melodies; to develop an art in which the big questions of life may not be answered, but are always asked. This approach is most reminiscent of the middle REM. At the same time, Matt Berninger and his colleagues know that boredom lurks behind every door with such pathos, which is why they add numerous hooks to their art: most recently, on I AM EASY TO FIND, it was most obvious recognizable the inclusion of numerous guest singers.
You could read that as an indication that The National are working on dissolving the rock band construct as a male-dominated gang, but also that they simply want to cooperate and exchange ideas. FIRST TWO PAGES OF FRANKENSTEIN takes a step back here. We do hear guests, but they serve the respective songs more than they change their character: Sufjan Stevens breathes a second space into the contemplative, subdued piano and string ballad “Once Upon A Poolside”, which echoes clerically.
A beautiful record all round
Phoebe Bridgers also stays in the background on “This Isn’t Helping”; Only with Taylor Swift does one have the impression that the fruitful collaboration of the past few years has led to a little more space: “The Alcott” would have done well on Swift’s FOLKLORE or EVERMORE with its mossy beats and tongue-in-cheek aphorisms. But, and this is an important but: The fact that the prominent guests don’t rush through here with their legs apart is incredibly good for the album.
FIRST TWO PAGES OF FRANKENSTEIN is a feat of balance and stockpiles some of the best The National songs ever. “New Order T-Shirt”, at the same time nervous and completely calm, accounting for an apparently past interpersonal relationship, “Ice Machines” with its self-doubt or the final “Send For Me”: a song like an outstretched hand that is almost certainly a hug will follow. A beautiful record all round.