Released on July 19, 2004
CD, LP, Digital
LISTEN TO "ABOUT TODAY" OFF CHERRY TREE
The National's sophomore album, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003), found the band emerging onto a larger stage. Uncut called it "a genuine treasure" and named it an album of the year; it was hailed by Rolling Stone and the indie media; and Magnet, La Liberation (Paris), and the Chicago Tribune were only a few of the publications to tap it for their year-end lists.
In France, the band had become such a sensation that renowned DJ Bernard Lenoir invited them to perform on his Black Sessions -- following US buzz bands like The Rapture and Interpol. A track from that session, "Murder Me Rachel" occupies the warm-blooded heart of Cherry Tree, a 7-song collection that delves the depths and brought their tension-wire rock to new heights. Clocking in at just under thirty minutes Cherry Tree was an EP, a mini-LP, or a bridge to the future. It features five new songs and two bonus tracks, including one of those aforementioned live performance from France inter radio and a trans-oceanic duet between the National's singer Matt Berninger and Clogs' Padma Newsome.
Salon.com: A near perfect EP, both delicate and rugged -- like a beaten and battered but very butch butterfly. Profoundly moving, but without any big emotional gestures, any trace of sentimentality. I expect great things from this band. Voted #1 in Salon's Top 10 Records of 2004 List
Uncut Magazine Review by Chris Roberts: The National are intimidated by female beauty, spellbound and damaged by it. They fear it somehow criticises or diminishes them. It's hurt them; they don't trust it. They sing of leaving it well alone, for sanity's sake, but can't practise what they preach. This is the weak and helpless art of male self-pity at its finest.
The usual names crop up in comparisons: Cohen, Eitzel, Tindersticks, Dulli. But if The National were copyists, this wouldn't work, it'd be parody. It's not parody. It's heinously bitter and twisted, and hurting bad, and you believe it.
Their second album, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, broke their cover last year. Five men from New York via Ohio, they are the brothers Dessner, the brothers Devendorf, and singer Matt Berninger. Violinist Padma Newsome gilds the belladonna. Otherwise they're a rock band, albeit a restrained one. You may sometimes hear in them shades of Interpol, The Sound, or early U2. Often, though, they're gentler, letting Berninger's defeated voice and outstanding lyrics do the job.
A mini album, this: six songs and a (very Joy Division) live pass at "Murder Me Rachael" (from the last album). The French call it "dark rock." Facile, but they're not wrong. "Wasp Nest" comes in mock-innocent before declaring, "Get over here, I wanna kiss your skinny throat." Berninger is all candid lust and implicit fatalism, and on the phenomenal "All the Wine" he drawls: "I'm a festival, I'm a parade...I'm so sorry but the motorcade will have to go around me this time" with all the joy of a dying man.
As with all great poetic works of despair and self-loathing, there's fine-gauge humour here. Also, mandolins like jingly raindrops. "My head plays it over and over," grumbles one refrain, which will suffice as a summary. "Don't interrupt me..."