The rise of The National has been one of the most remarkable music business success stories in recent years. From their humble origins as a low-fi garage band in Cincinnati to their current status as demi-gods of the indie rock scene, their rise to prominence has been measured and relentless.
Success has been achieved without any fuss or self-aggrandisement – you would be hard pressed to find a more ego-less rock band than the National. They are rock music's equivalent of Superman's alter ego Clark Kent – polite, mild mannered and unassuming.
Press interviews contain no proclamations of greatness or controversial utterances; there are no tales of flamboyant rock and roll excess and they present an image of a band united by one thing and one thing only – a shared focus that the music is all that matters and should be allowed speak for itself.
If the release of third album Alligator in 2005 marked the arrival of The National as serious contenders, Trouble Will Find Me consolidates everything they have done since then - it sticks closely to the trademark National sound, delivering their most consistently excellent album to date. For a band that has delivered albums of the quality of Boxer (2007) and High Violet (2009), that is quite an achievement.
There is no major progression in terms of their sound – any of these songs would fit quite snugly on to their previous three albums. The band provide a rich but understated musical backdrop for the obtuse, melancholy musings of Matt Berninger – this is indie rock in a minor key, eschewing the 'quiet loud quiet' formula employed by other rock acts to achieve dramatic impact.
Berninger's distinctive voice covers these songs like a warm, comforting blanket – it's one of those voices you either love or hate, but it is unquestionably a major part of the National identity. Choosing highlights from an album as uniformly excellent as this is almost pointless – take your pick from 'I Should Live in Salt', 'Demons' 'Fireproof' or 'Graceless'.
Modern albums tend to be frontloaded with all the best tracks –Trouble Will Find Me maintains the momentum right to the very end, with 'Pink Rabbits' and 'Hard to Find' closing out the album strongly.
The day is coming when The National may need to leave the comfort zone they have created with their blueprint sound – strip it back or flesh it out, be less like Clark Kent and more like Superman.
But for now, while they continue to deliver melancholy as seductively packaged as this, we remain quietly spellbound.
Review by Paul Page | Four Stars