Saturday, June 2, 2012

The National - Sorrow

“A Game of Thrones” Season 2 - Episode 9 – Blackwater, ended with a nice rendition of “The Rains of Castamere.” “The Rains of Castamere,” is one of many poems contained within the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” written by genius George R.R. Martin, also it is just about the only poem I bothered to pay much attention too whilst reading the series. I could on and on about “A Game of Thrones,” (Go Stannis!) but that’s not what this is about, this is about the band that performed “The Rains of Castamere,” for the television series.

I knew the voice was familiar when I heard it the first time and I probably should have put my finger on it right away, but I was so caught up with “A Game of Thrones,” the series and the characters I was not thinking about it. The voice was Matt Berninger, and the band is The National. That National has been around since 1999 but I only recently discovered them. I like The National, but I like them a little more now after hearing them perform one of George R.R. Martin’s poems/songs, which is a totally awesome thing to do.

This is not the first time I have stumbled into a song by The National in the media of film. I stumbled upon The National whilst watching the first true mixed martial arts movie “Warrior.” Joel Edgerton plays a Rich Franklin caricature (teacher/fighter) and Tom Hardy plays his brother, a Brain Stann caricature (U.S. mariner/fighter). They participate in a tournament featuring real life mixed martial artist like Nate Marquardt and Anthony Johnson, also professional wrestler Kurt Angle plays a Fedor Emelianenko caricature. If you knew all the names I just mentioned you get a hundred cool points. Anyway “Warrior” is an okay movie, at the end when the brothers must fight each other and the dramatic end to the fight approaches the soulful The National song “About Today,” plays. It is probably the best moment in the movie.

However as charming as The National has been with songs like “The Rains of Castamere,” and “About Today,” there is a third song I would prefer to divert your attention too, “Sorrow.”

The National are a very melancholy band... oh god I finally used that word in a review, “melancholy,” which of course is just a fancy way of saying “sad.” The National are a very “sad” band, so a song title like “Sorrow” fits them like a glove. I watched a live performance of theirs on where lead singer Matt Berninger felt the need to explain to the crowd that he was not, in fact, a manic depressant. However after some good natured teasing from his fellow band mates Berninger settled for admitting he was a slight manic depressant.

I have heard other critics compare The National to bands like Leonard Cohen and Joy Davison. I think every music critic likes to compare every band to Joy Division. Joy Division wrote some morbidly sad songs, and Leonard Cohen had an unearthly talent for summing up painful emotions in short sentences, and I must concur that general feelings of tolerating unhappiness is present in all three examples but as far as sound is concerned I would dare say The National have more in common with their indie British counterpart Editors.

If you remember all the way back to April you will recall me reviewing Editors and having some very nice things to say about them. The National has a few things in common with Editors, both are high quality Indie rock bands, both have solid acoustic melodies, and both have strong front men with manly voices. Matt Berninger does not quiet have the deep pitch of Editors Tom Smith, but he does sing like a man, proper and strong, admittedly this may be an intangible compliment. Despite the absolutely desperate things he sings, Berninger never really sounds weak; there is always a cold complacency in this tone. I believe this strong accepting voice of depressing truth is no better felt than in “Sorrow.” Perhaps saying The National is like Editors is an unfair statement, The National formed three years prior to Editors.

I really like the lyrics so here they are;

"Sorrow found me when I was young,
Sorrow waited, sorrow won.
Sorrow that put me on the pills,
It's in my honey, it's in my milk.
Don't leave my hyper heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don't wanna get over you.
I don't wanna get over you.

Sorrows my body on the waves,
Sorrows a girl inside my cave,
I live in a city sorrow built.
It's in my honey, it's in my milk.
Dont leave my hyper heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don't wanna get over you.
I don't wanna get over you.

dont leave my hyper heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.

Cause I don't wanna get over you.

I don't wanna get over you."

Those are sad lyrics. I especially like the lines “It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk,” that strikes up some very haggard visuals. Sorrow takes away the joy from everything, even nourishment, even flavor. Perhaps even better than that is the simple but effective line of “I don’t want to get over you,” that is such an endearing line. It takes strength to love when heartbroken, and the nation that someone would cling to loving someone even when their gone, that is just so romantic, it also so very sad, but it is romantic. It’s a heavy song, but it is a good one.

To sum things up, The National is a powerful melancholy/sad indie rock band, “Warrior” was a mediocre movie, everyone should be watching “A Game of Thrones” by now, Stannis Baratheon is the one true king, and until later this month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly


  1. Personally, my favourite song of theirs is "Exile Vilify," which I first stumbled upon in the TV series House, M.D.

    It was a joyous surprise to hear the “The Rains of Castamere” as the end theme song for this episode. I felt it really fit the mood they were attempting to create.

    1. Apparently "Exile Vilify" was written for the "Portal 2" soundtrack. Who knew?

      Regardless it was a new song to me, thank you for pointing it out to me, I really enjoy it.