The National have a habit of releasing dark and depressing albums (2010’s High Violet comes to mind), and Trouble Will Find Me is no exception. While the music is arguably competent, the lyrics are weak and contrived. With lyrics that attempt to come off as introspective, edgy and relatable, all we get is repetitive and dull phrases such as “Your voice has stolen my soul, soul, soul/Your voice has stolen my soul/soul, soul/Soul soul soul soul soul/Your voice has stolen my soul, soul, soul/Soul soul soul soul soul/Your voice has stolen my soul, soul, soul/Soul soul soul soul soul” (from “Afraid of Everyone”). The banal verses make the album almost unlistenable.
The National came together in 1991 when Matt Berninger and bassist Scott Devendorf met at the University of Cincinnati and formed their first band which they called Nancy. After one record the group broke up, and several of the band’s members relocated to Brooklyn where they reformed and are still based today. Despite the record’s overall shortcomings, Trouble Will Find Me does include a couple of decent tracks such as “Fireproof” which is nicely arranged. With strings, piano, and guitar backing Berninger’s mumbling vocals, the haunting guitar creates layers in a way that makes it stick in your head, and is one of the highlights of the record. The music is simple and free of complicated musical parts, making the tune easy to follow.
“I Need My Girl” is the strongest track on the record. The song has a simple guitar riff that is the centerpiece which stands out from the other instruments with its colorful sound that makes the song pop as it loops continuously throughout the track. While the band has some good ideas when it comes to the music, the lyrics are still quite shallow. On “I Should Live in Salt”, Berninger sings “Don’t make me read your mind/You should know me better than that/It takes me too much/time/You should know me better than that/You’re not that much like me/You should know me better than that/We have different enemies/You should know me better than that/I should leave it alone but you’re not right/I should leave it alone but you’re not right…” Not very polished or meaningful either.
The National doesn’t appear to have the creativity or rock n’ roll attitude that is needed to move up the ladder. If you are looking for a gloomy and lugubrious band, along with lyrics that seem to have no direction, this is the band for you.