The National have released their music video for “Walk It Back” off their Grammy-nominated latest album, Sleep Well Beast.
The unnerving and hypnotic clip—put out exactly one year after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, and in the midst of a government shutdown, no less—pulls back the mask of political theater, examining the minute details of how our leaders are made larger than life, down to the individual pixels of a television screen.
Director Casey Reas explains:
The video documents the performance and spectacle of governance. It captures the pomp and rituals of Congress and its vainglorious, televised culture. The spoken text at the center of the song has been attributed to Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s advisor, but he has denied the association: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality-judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Reas also unpacks how, as evoked by the video, our government’s reality creation machine perpetuates itself:
The video follows lines of politicians. Ronald Reagan sets the stage for George H. W. Bush. Reagan’s State of the Union address serves as a template for Newt Gingrich’s co-authored “Contract with American,” which coincided with Bill Clinton’s fraught presidency. As a key figure in the George H. W. Bush administration, Dick Cheney serves as the vice president for the former president’s son, George W. Bush.
“I try to save it for a rainy day / It’s raining all the time,” sings a somber Matt Berninger as the distorted presidential carousel spins. “Until everything is less insane / I’m mixing weed with wine.” It’s been that kind of year.
Sleep Well Beast, The National’s seventh studio album, found the band pushing their musical boundaries, newly incorporating guitar solos and electronic drums. In his review for Paste, Adrian Spinelli praised the album as “anything but complacent,” writing that “it doesn’t skew from the high-caliber rock and roll the band has been producing since day one.” The record landed a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, the band’s second nod—their 2013 album Trouble Will Find Me received the same nomination.
The National have placed a particular emphasis on the visual components of their new album, with Reas overseeing it all. They’ve released videos for Sleep Well Beast’s title track, “Day I Die,” “Dark Side of the Gym,” “I’ll Still Destroy You,” “Carin at the Liquor Store,” “Guilty Party” and “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.” For those of you keeping score at home, that and “Walk It Back” make eight of the album’s 12 tracks being given the visual treatment.
Watch The National’s “Walk It Back” video and listen to their 2007 Daytrotter Session below, and find the band’s tour dates further down. Highlights include the band’s own Homecoming Festival in April and a headlining set at Atlanta’s Shaky Knees in May.
The National Tour Dates:
20 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ The Joint
23 – Mexico City, Mexico @ Pepsi Center
21 – Sydney, Australia @ Sydney Opera House Forecourt (SOLD OUT)
22 – Sydney, Australia @ Sydney Opera House Forecourt
25 – Auckland, New Zealand @ Villa Maria Winery
27 – Brisbane, Australia @ Riverstage
01 – Melbourne, Australia @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl
16 – Santiago, Chile @ Lollapalooza Chile
18 – Buenos Aires, Argentina @ Lollapalooza Argentina
22 – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil @ Circo Voador
24 – São Paulo, Brazil @ Lollapalooza Brazil
25 – Bogotá, Colombia @ Festival Estereo Picnic
28 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ Homecoming – Smale Park
29 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ Homecoming – Smale Park
30 – Charlottesville, Va. @ Sprint Pavilion
01 – Raleigh, N.C. @ Red Hat Amphitheater
03 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Ascend Amphitheater
04 – Asheville, N.C. @ Exploreasheville Arena
05 – St. Augustine, Fla. @ St. Augustine Amphitheatre
04-6 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Shaky Knees Festival
25 – Boston, Mass. @ Boston Calling Music Festival
02 – London, U.K. @ Victoria Park
08 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Northside Festival
09 – Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands @ Best Kept Secret Festival
10 – Helsinki, Finland @ Sideways Festival
15 – Dublin, Ireland @ Donnybrook Stadium
16 – Dublin, Ireland @ Donnybrook Stadium
13 – Lisbon, Portugal @ Nos Alive
24 – Berkeley, Calif. @ Greek Theatre
25 – Berkeley, Calif. @ Greek Theatre