A seamlessly constructed but frequently restrained follow-up to a classic
The National’s last effort, Alligator, was one of 2005’s best—and most durable—releases.
Following in that album’s bolder footsteps, Boxer
is enveloping, rich and brooding but somehow less charged. Musically, The National continues getting excellent mileage from the arresting juxtaposition of propulsion and languor on songs like “Squalor Victoria,” where the staccato tom-toms tear through the grey gelatinous wash of strings like a knife fight in frame-by-frame slow motion. At moments, the mix of Berninger’s moaning voice, the occasional smart-aleck barb in the lyrics and the general patina of rumination makes The National a dead ringer for American Music Club, but unlike Eitzel’s more impressionistic creations, the songs on Boxer
tend to stay within their frames and rarely careen into the weirder corners one senses they’re capable of finding. Here, most gestures remain a bit too
consciously panoramic—elegant enough for comfort but often not chancy enough to be breathtaking.