Brett Favre retired and people can’t stop talking about it. I fucking hate Brett Favre, and nobody will shut up about how much they already miss Brett Favre and how great Brett Favre is and what a battler and warrior and leader and how can we possibly carry on without Brett Favre. Fuck Brett Favre, and fuck everyone who comes out of the woodwork to say, "you know, I don’t really like the Packers / football / my personal uselessness, and I know you hate him, but I have to say, I sure did like watching Brett Favre play." To which I must reply, "I hope you tear your groin muscles and your internal organs protrude through the tear and it causes you lots of pain, and that you are constantly forced to explain your pain to both medical professionals and casual acquaintances at work who want to know why you’re wincing all the damn time." If this hatred for an athlete I’ve never met is irrational, well, it’s no more irrational than the fat men crying openly across the upper Midwest about the most overrated hick in the history of Wrangler commercials.
That, friends and neighbors, is a statement that will forever capture my personal spin on the spirit of these particular times. Particularly because it is now published. Reaching way back through several years of hack writing, I feel much the same about the National’s Boxer.
OK, given the extreme high regard in which I hold this album, that’s a bit of structural stretch. I absolutely defend the comparison AND the Favre statements, but for the sake of a well constructed review, I’ll start again with a conversation piece. I’ll also vow to get this done before the Ides of March next time.
A good friend of mine finds a way to trash the rise of the Arcade Fire every time we talk music. Why, he argues, does everyone love all that earnestness? It’s not impressive, and it for sure doesn’t represent the secular spirituality for disaffected graduates with little-to-nothing to really be disaffected about anymore. To exaggerate / partially refute his point of view, this vague, millenniums-old, highly under-publicized conflict between the Western Christians and Eastern Muslims isn’t any Cold War or Vietnam or anything. And this prevailing economic fear rooted in too much TV and too many movies is some pinko blue-state bullshit that we already know all about from the Beatles. So when you set out to bang on a xylophone in an outdoor amphitheater, you just don’t have to mean it so much, you dig? Regardless of whether you’re with my friend or against him, it’s a dilemma.
So then we have Boxer, coming at your quasi-heavy-stress like William Blake’s Songs Of Experience. It’s perfectly crafted pop music for the impossibly under-wizened contemporary dude (gender neutral). This dude is disaffected by all this disaffectedness and all this love of irony and all this love of earnestness. This dude is aware that it ALL comes and goes – and I mean ALL of it, the hair, the clothes, the trends, the issues, the relationships, the technology, the concern, the posturing, the fear, the triumph, the pain, the slipping, the bitterness, the slogans, the mantras, the sense that things done changed and fools don’t even recognize, and the feeling that it should’ve been better. This dude has become the blogging everyman, alienated by elder Internet statesmen, SportsCenter anchors, and college kids who still get to party like it’s 1999. This dude knows that conversations about novelty should have stayed novel longer than they have, but that everyone’s grandparents probably felt the same (like the high school umbrellas production of Our Town and shit). This dude’s time is upon us, and this album is said dude’s wheelhouse. This album is a timeless album of resigned, patient acceptance of the full spectrum. It’s also a brilliant and timely answer to the question, ‘meh, what can you do?’
That’s a bold effing statement. How do you back that up? Lyric snippets? Comments on the vocal quality, Soul Coughing-era M. Doughty slurred ooooouuuuhs at the end of every line like the singer couldn’t be bothered to finish that one crisp? Talk about the play between the rhythm and the melody, and it works so much better when you’re hid behind the couch together, half asleep in a fake empire, than it does when you’re trying to bob your head to Bloc Party and just can’t bring yourself to do it anymore? Thesis, antithesis, synthesis? Nope, actually, I don’t have to back my statements up. I’m on internet time, baby. I fucking finished college years ago. Are you going to make me, dear reader? Seriously, you?
In conclusion, if I didn’t worry about the review for the second best album of the year marring an already silly list with a little too much silliness, I’d have devoted all of the non-Brett Favre space here to the things I would fight to convince you of my love for this album. The list would have included Russell Crowe’s gang from Romper Stomper. Oh yeah.
-Josh Woodbeck, 2008