Home > News & Reviews > The National

The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein (Album Review)

Wednesday, 03 May 2023 Written by Graeme Marsh

For many years, the National’s sound was defined by the baritone of frontman Matt Berninger. By introducing a phalanx of guest vocalists to complement his recognisable rumble, 2019’s ‘I Am Easy To Find’ delivered a considerable surprise. It’s less surprising, then, that the doors to collaboration remain open on their ninth album ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’.

Unfortunately, those guests are not given the opportunity to stamp their class on the album. Opener Once Upon a Poolside is a delicate, minimalist piano ballad featuring Sufjan Stevens that never moves beyond pleasant enough. Phoebe Bridgers appears on two tracks—This Isn’t Helping and the self-explanatory Your Mind is Not Your Friend—that offer a quiet simmer and blandness respectively. 

Stevens and Bridgers are not fully utilised and, equally, Berninger sounds a little disinterested.

On The Alcott Taylor Swift returns a favour following her work with Aaron Dessner on ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’, but her contribution amounts to nothing more than a backing vocal. It’s left to us to wonder what the point of having all this star wattage around is, if not to see if its lustre rubs off.

The National’s reliable mopiness is in plentiful supply, but it can be trying. Closer Send For Me is particularly drab. “It’s taken forever,” Berninger sings, and some listeners will undoubtedly feel the same way as they arrive at track 11. 

Thankfully, ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’ is also home to some far better moments. Single Eucalyptus isn’t the most groundbreaking song lyrically as it tells of sharing out possessions after a split, but peering from behind its bleak shroud is something rather excellent. Standard National fare New Order T-Shirt and Grease in Your Hair are both fan pleasers, but Tropic Morning News is an exceptional delve into War on Drugsy guitar-based electronica.

The National are busy people. Since the release of their last album, Berninger has released a solo effort and spoken of writer’s block and bouts of depression. With the Dessner brothers also extremely busy with side projects, it is hard to see where the inspiration will come from for album 10 if ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’ was as difficult a project as it appears to have been. Maybe the guest spots are an attempt to rediscover their spark, and it’s understandable if that’s the case. The level of quality here is not quite what we’re used to from such a consistently brilliant band.

The National Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu September 21 2023 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Sat September 23 2023 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Sun September 24 2023 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Tue September 26 2023 - LONDON Alexandra Palace
Wed September 27 2023 - LONDON Alexandra Palace

Compare & Buy The National Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


We don't run any advertising! Our editorial content is solely funded by lovely people like yourself using Stereoboard's listings when buying tickets for live events. To keep supporting us, next time you're looking for concert, festival, sport or theatre tickets, please search for "Stereoboard". It costs you nothing, you may find a better price than the usual outlets, and save yourself from waiting in an endless queue on Friday mornings as we list ALL available sellers!

Let Us Know Your Thoughts

Related News

Tue 26 Sep 2023
The National - Laugh Track (Album Review)
Mon 18 Sep 2023
The National Surprise Release New Album 'Laugh Track'
Thu 17 Aug 2023
The National Release Two New Singles Alphabet City And Space Invader
Thu 13 Apr 2023
The National Share New Song Your Mind Is Not Your Friend Feat Phoebe Bridgers
Thu 23 Mar 2023
The National Share New Song Eucalyptus
< Prev   Next >