HWY-003: Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers by The National (CD version)


The National are five displaced Ohioans living in New York. They play smart, bracing, and beautiful rock music. Their self-titled debut was hailed throughout the US and Europe by publications ranging from the Village Voice and No Depression to Paris’s Liberation. England’s Kerrang! called it “the stuff underground legends are made of.”

Their follow-up is a great leap forward, an omnibus of rock songwriting that is by turns upbeat and downcast, electric and acoustic, raging and atmospheric. Produced by Nick Lloyd, Peter Katis (Interpol), and Paul Heck (No Alternative; Red, Hot, and Riot!), Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers is a bold statement, a song cycle about men and women and all the ways things go wrong and right.

Rolling Stone #934 (Oct 30, 2003) by Greg Kot: When Matt Berninger moans, “Let her treat you like a criminal, so you can treat her like a priest,” at the outset of the National’s second album, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, you just know these boys got it bad. Girl trouble, that is. Plunging into the desperate erotica of their Leonard Cohen-meets-Joy Division world, this Brooklyn quintet sounds both decadent and deprived when brooding about betrayal, lust, even their snappy new outerwear (“Fashion Coat”). Violins swoon, bells toll, keyboards get shrouded in fog. The band patiently nurtures the tension beneath the surface, but when it pops—especially in the hurtling coda to “Available,” the violent last verse of “Slipping Husband,” the screaming-poltergeist guitars that twist their way through “Murder Me Rachael”—the grief turns nasty.

Uncut: A genuine treasure… No one has written the uneasy poetry of self-disgust with such brutality since Mark Eitzel at his best. Livid as a bruise, this is brave, desperate and desperately beautiful music.

PitchforkMedia.com (8.4 out of 10 rating): Since The National’s excellent self-titled debut in 2001, the Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati quintet has continued developing its hard-knock aesthetic, and lucky for the listener, Berninger’s relationships don’t appear to be getting any better… Each of the dozen laments on Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers balance catchy choruses, exquisite instrumental interludes, and the complex words of a man’s grieving. By the time you reach the final punch line of “Lucky You” you feel you know Berninger, want to offer him a coat, a smile, and some warmth to make it through another sleepless night. But on second thought, with that added comfort maybe he’d stop singing these beautiful songs: so you hold off, sit back down, and continue listening to this gorgeous train wreck.


If instant gratification is more your speed, you can check out a track from the album right here:


Or watch a video here:


1. Cardinal Song
2. Slipping Husband
3. 90-Mile Water Wall
4. It Never Happened
5. Murder Me Rachael
6. Thirsty
7. Available
8. Sugar Wife
9. Trophy Wife
10. Fashion Coat
11. Patterns of Fairytales
12. Lucky You

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