I don’t need any help to be breakable, believe me
I know nobody else who can laugh along to any kind of joke
I won’t need any help to be lonely when you leave me
It’ll be easy to cover
Gather my skeletons far inside
“I should live in salt for leaving you behind,” Matt Berninger sings on the opening track, “I Should Live in Salt.” He is perhaps a writer first and a singer second. Which is hard to explain, because his voice creates a unique sound that never hides — it’s at the front, a fully-exposed baritone, whether he’s screaming or singing. And he does both on The National’s latest album, Trouble Will Find Me.
I don’t know if these thirteen songs are showing us any new cards, but that’s okay when you have what the Brooklyn band has. On “Sea of Love,” we are given everything that makes us love The National: regret, rage, a battled and confident crescendo of certainty and uncertainty. “I see you rushing down/ Tell me how to reach you,” Berninger screams. “I see you rushing down/ What did Harvard teach you?”
The appeal here, still, is that this a band who knows what it wants to do: write and sing about darkness and struggle. And that’s refreshing when it’s so cool these days to at least try to be a band you’re not.
“Don’t Swallow the Cap” may be the ultimate gem on Trouble Will Find Me, but I’ll point to “Slipped” and the closing “Hard To Find” as two songs that give this album the chance to stand the test of time. “I wonder if you live there still/ I kinda think you always will,” Berninger sings on the latter.
The National may live in darkness forever — that’s their choice. And that’s fine with me.