While the band has not released anything since 2019’s I Am Easy to Find, members of The National have been busy with solo albums and working extensively with other artists. Anytime the band gets back together is a reason for high anticipation. And so arrives First Two Pages of Frankenstein with much talk about the writers block that singer Matt Berninger suffered through during the process.
Like their younger colleagues, this time around The National brings in a slew of guest vocalists including Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, and world conquering Tayler Swift. Stevens helps on the minimal album opener, “Once Upon a Poolside” but neither Bridgers tracks really hit. Swift’s appearance is more memorable as she sings lines back to Berninger and adds her own style on lines like “The last thing you wanted/It’s the first thing I do”.
When it’s just Berninger, the songs tend to lean heavily on relationships moments. “Eucalyptus” sees a couple splitting up their possessions during a break-up including the records. “New Order T-Shirt” has a cascading beat laying the bed for “split second glimpses and snapshots and sounds”. This new release sees the band quiet and introspective, what’s missed is the band rocking out especially when they have a stellar rhythm section of brothers Bryan and Scott Devendorf. They are only truly unleashed on “Tropic Morning News”. Instead, the band opts for electronics that all start to blend into one another as the album continues.