Single Review: The National – Anyone’s Ghost

by Katherine

There are very few band names that truly reflect said artist’s music – the childish cacophony of ‘Lady GaGa’ hardly reflects the nuclear-powered, pin-point efficiency of Germanotta’s futuristic art-pop, and upon hearing Los Campesinos!, you’d be forgiven for expecting a lushly moustached Mexican samba band than a clatter of raucous, squawky British also-rans, brimming with joie de vivre and jagged guitar solos. 

But ‘The National’ is something of an anomaly – ‘The National’ sounds curiously straight-laced and authoritative, like the dusty name of a branch of some war-time secret police noted in some dog-eared History textbook; it pleasingly alludes to all the heavy-lidded mystery and soaring grandeur The National capture.

 ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ is taken from The National’s ‘High Violet’, and it’s as cagey a track as the band have ever released – the throbbing percussion and dull guitars lend the track a claustrophobic, nervy feel. And Matt sings like a man whose walls are closing in on him – The National constantly dwell on love lost, and as per usual, he sounds battered, eternally donning the tear-stained sleeves of the lovelorn suitor, eternally teetering on love’s precipice, never succumbing fully to its embrace.

 In a time of musical indulgence and ridiculous ambitions – it seems like every second singer is a bloody android – The National are as plain as porridge.‘Anyone’s Ghost’ is meat and potatoes rock; there are no electronic glitches, no bobbing horn section, not even a handful of prettily draped strings, it’s all guitars, percussion and pain – just as it should be.

 And the lyrics are as evocative and as pithy as ever –  Matt manages to make the elusiveness of love – a lyrical theme I thought the carcass of which had been fully picked – seem fresher than any kind of kitsch, robot from outer-space shtick.

‘Anyone’s Ghost’ holds so many lines destined to be inscribed, mantra-like, onto the textbooks and diaries of the lovelorn teens of tomorrow – from the piercing ‘You said it was not inside my heart, it was/ You said it should not tear a kid apart, it does’ to the wistful ‘Go out at night with your headphones on, again/ And walk through the Manhattan valleys of, the dead’ – the latter manages to evoke every tear-stained kid, gloomily treading through town, leaden-feet, Morrissey wailing sympathetically in their headphones.

So are The National the new Smiths? Such a comparison would be lazy – heartache doesn’t necessarily intertwine artists. But Matt and Morrissey both console, both encapsulate the same dullness, the same ennui, the same dull fear that the low-key epic of aborted love brings.