The National released a couple of wonderful records in the early noughties, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and a follow-up mini-album, both through the French label Talitres. The best heart-sore American rock since the heyday of American Music Club, they felt like real discoveries. Unfortunately, both records they have released since joining Beggars Banquet have pursued a claustrophobic, minor-key U2-on-a-budget sound, with a lot of clatter and chime and little of their early magic. It doesn't help that Boxer finds singer Matt Berninger's lovely, weary, mahogany-toned voice mumbling deep in the mix; he can be an acute lyricist, and you want to hear what he's singing. In the absence of specific moments of revelation, the general melancholy becomes wearing. There are flashes of prettiness, but this feels, disappointingly, like deadened, muffled music.
CD: The National, Boxer