Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National

Voices are so important in rock music. Not just singers. Voices. There’s an important distinction in there somewhere. Sure, we look at the electric guitar as the vital ingredient of rock. There are T-Shirts and Key-rings from The Hard-Rock Hotel and bad T-Shirts bought for men in their 40’s (and up) which feature Stratocasters on fire and blah blah blah. Guitars, sure. Pretty important.

But, Lets. Talk. Voices.

Let me ask you this. Where else in the music world do you get some loose open drums and a bit of buzzing around a piano riff elevated like this?

Elevated to the sort of emotional trigger that can stop a conversation dead or make the tiny hairs all over the neck and shoulders stand right on end? Where else than in rock?

Bloodbuzz Ohio begins as just a rock band (any rock band) getting started on a song until you get to;

“Stand up straight at the foot of your love I lift my shirt up”

Just then suddenly, those drums are the most important drums you ever heard, that Weoooo buzzing is the atmosphere you breathe and that piano is almost your entire emotional spectrum all at once. All because of that deep baritone voice (Matt Berninger’s deep baritone voice) and it’s cool n’ calm delivery. The National are a wonderful demonstration of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts in action.

“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees, I never married but Ohio don’t remember me”

The most obvious touch stone for describing The National to anyone as yet unfamiliar is Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. They occupy the same intelligent, dark, witty poetry in the face of despair space as the Grindermen on their day job. They have a disarming image which does not hint at the hidden depths of their still waters. And yet Bad Seeds Lite does them an injustice.

Bloodbuzz Ohio is one of their more famous tracks for good reason. It crosses right over to fans of things like Augustines, Mark Lanegan, The War On Drugs, The Low Anthem and Pulp and unites a kind of cerebral indie fan in a quiet respect.

“I’m on a blood-buzz yes I am I’m on a blood… buzz”

They’re rightfully huge in the mainstream slipstream now. They can fill cavernous old timey theaters with ornate architecture and plush light fittings on each tour they play and they occupy the same sweet ‘star stealing spot’ on a festival bill as Interpol and Elbow usually directly beneath the headline act.

All this has been achieved over a 20 year career of steadily releasing high quality albums chock full of honest gimmick free rock music that leans into the bands strengths but is led by THAT voice. All this without ever having a bona fide hit. They’re and aficionados band the same way pretty much every other act mentioned in those paragraphs above is an aficionados band. You could maybe add Decemberists, Lambchop, Wilco, Doves and The The to that roll call.

You either see those acts as excellent company to be in or you’re off listening to a whole other scene.

Treasure the National. They’re all ours.

11 thoughts on “Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National

  1. I love these lot, wonderful write-up and – as you say – just the moment in this song (especially) can send all kinds of shivers, in a great way.

    I first saw them in Belfast in ’08, around when Boxer came out, it was introduced to me by an ex-gf’s Father and my word… what an album! The gig was at Queens University and I hadn’t even SEEN what they looked like and whist they were older than I expected, they still look the same now btw, marvellous memory and energy.

    I did see them in London at Hyde Park and 2 years back but couldn’t get standing so had to sit, worst decision ever. Especially when people were ON THEIR PHONES around me… what the hell?

    Anyway, I’m going again this December, smaller venue and standing. Bring. it. on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Seeing them this month a few days before my birthday. Such a fantastic band. Trouble Will Find Me was a formative album of my junior year and I remember a family friend once describing their concerts as a “religious experience.” Plus I just have to support a band that comes from my native state (Ohio, wouldn’t you know).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yasss!! The second best band from Cincinnati – first being The Afghan Whigs, innit. Anyhoo, I love The National. I found them via Uncut’s review of Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers back in 2003 and never let them go. I mind being totally taken aback when they released this. Really loved it, but the album felt like a shift in sound. It kinda was, I guess… it was the beginnings of the really adventurous stuff (new album hasn’t quite grabbed me yet). Anyhoo, great choice. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

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