In Lizzy Goodman’s excellent book, Meet Me In the Bathroom that focuses on the New York rock scene of the early oughts, tellingly The National appear in a chapter entitled, “The Uncool Kids”. However, over the years they would become one of the biggest bands to emerge from that burgeoning scene having now released 8 studio albums. Back in 2001 though, they would release their self-titled debut on Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s Brassland Record label.
Featuring drummer Bryan Devendorf on the cover, this is before Bryce had officially joined the band but plays on several tracks. “Cold Girl Fever” is a catchy acoustic led track with a squiggly synth and a drum that kicks things up before the end. “Beautiful Head” and “The Perfect” are solid college rock songs. Elsewhere the album strays into country influenced sounds on the upbeat “Pay For Me” with a twang in Matt Berninger’s vocals. The laid back “Bitters & Absolut” has fine backing vocals courtesy of Nathalie Jonas and a lovely piano towards the end. The National’s debut is a well-played album with Berninger still trying to find his voice that would eventually lift the band to far greater heights.