1.6.13 — “Mistaken for Strangers” by The National

The National

If you listen to only one song tonight, make it “Mistaken For Strangers” by The National (2007, from the album Boxer).

The National is a very influential indie rock band from Brooklyn by way of Ohio. They formed in 1999 and have released five albums since 2001. In the last two or three years, they’ve been all over the place, doing collaborations with just about any cool band under the sun. Everybody knows that the two main guitar players Bryce and Aaron Dessner are twin brothers, but it’s not as widely reported that the bassist (Scott) and drummer (Bryan Devendorf) are also brothers.

Boxer created a bunch of buzz, but I never even gave it a chance. In fact, I was so late to the game with The National that the first album that I heard was High Violet, which made a ton of “best of 2010” lists. I called it my fourth favorite non-Canadian record of that year. A little later, I went back and worked on the back catalog. As much as I liked High Violet, I liked Boxer quite a bit more.

I’d put the first four songs of Boxer against just about anything, and Boxer would win.

Tonight’s song is from that batch of four.

“Mistaken For Strangers” by The National

Right off the bat, I love the thunderous drums. Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals are intoxicating.

I don’t really want to speculate all that much about what the meaning of it all is, but I like the “You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends” line.

The oft-repeated line

Showered and blue-blazered
Fill yourself with quarters

is a reference to the novel The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen the movie, and a couple of other movies (The Great Buck Howard) and teevee series (Bored to Death) that he wrote. A recurring theme in Ames’ work is the secret identity. So I guess the “you get mistaken for strangers by your own friends” is a suggestion of someone being in disguise or otherwise living a secret life. With that in mind, maybe this line makes some sense:

You don’t mind seeing yourself in a picture
As long as you look far away
As long as you look removed

I always end up playing this song a second or third time when I listen to Boxer. I suggest that you do the same.

You can buy Boxer from their official web store here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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