Music for Mondays: Covered The National-II

An amazing National poster

With a new Monday on the horizon and the 50/50 chance of good weather and snow in Colorado it only makes sense that you play the odds and decide to go to work instead of taking the day off. In doing so you may be miserable and stuck in sleet and snow with all the other louses who are stuck in the sleet and snow. But at least you will have a little bit of the National to console your feelings and bitter rat race pains. In part II of your Covered set of the National we will look at St. Vincent’s live cover of Mistaken for Strangers.

Now one of my favorite songs of all time is LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends. The song talks about the tumultuous-ness of your 20’s and as I quote:

You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to be with your friends again…where are your friends tonight?

The song really is about that sad but true painful awareness that you gain post college about how much of your life is dictated by by following the standards equation of go to school and get a job rather than your relationship. Not only that you come to the realization that you will now have an uphill battle trying to redefine success to find that happiness in your relationships rather than your job. It is one of those songs that you listen to late at night cruising in your old hometown remembering all the good times and feeling lost in your own personal direction.

In a similar vein the National, a band very aware of the sadness of life as an adult is, have a whole catalogue dedicated to trying to find meaning in life and wanting to not be forgotten. One particular song, Mistaken for Strangers,really addresses that feeling of being lost and alone when returning to your life after your twenty-something personal growth. In fact, the whole album Boxer really looks at the awareness of your life around you and questioning your meaning and purpose in a world that is so against you. Part political statement and part feeling a sense of being lost, Boxer really feels like the statement of many young Adults. Remember that Boxer was released during the Bush Administration and around that time there were many young people who were becoming more and more aware of how much of their world was out of their control. Not only that it was during the height of the hipster deconstructionist period of constant criticism and tearing down with no real understanding or drive to make it better. This makes an album like Boxer a great expression of this period.

In the song Mistaken for Strangers in particular, there is a  really harsh resonant sound that gives a sense of tenseness to that idea of going home and failing to connect with people from long ago. Not only have you changed but they have changed as well leaving you with strangers that you can’t feel connected to. I think the song is really more from a perspective of a man who left his life only to return and realize that his life has gone on without him. He has changed so much that he can’t possibly ever be remembered and the bitterness that you feel from that moment.

As the song states:

You have to do it running but you do everything that they ask you to
cause you don’t mind seeing yourself in a picture
as long as you look faraway, as long as you look removed
showered and blue-blazered, fill yourself with quarters
showered and blue-blazered, fill yourself with quarters

You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
when you pass them at night under the silvery, silvery citibank lights
arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under
oh you wouldn’t want an angel watching over
surprise, surprise they wouldn’t wannna watch
another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults. 

The song, similar to LCD Soundsystem address that idea of going to college and following a predisposed path that you are to follow. To sacrifice everything to be on the “right path” only to look back and see that life has passed you by and your friends along with it. That last line of the chorus really strikes me in that pain and disdain that we have for becoming adults and really losing out on life. But unlike LCD Soundsystem where you try to find that meaning of life again, the National pull the victim and just wallow in that pain. What I really think about when listening to this song is the wild lion that is put into captivity at a zoo. When other wild animals look at him all they see is a stranger with glazed over eyes and sense of defeat and loss of direction and purpose.

I was going to put a picture of her doe eyes but you can’t stop staring!

Singer and Songwriter St. Vincent aka Annie Erin Clark aka Doe Eyed Princess aka noise rock girl second only to my ladyfriend, has done a fantastic job of reinterpreting that sadness that really leaves you feeling empty and hollow with nothing but an empty space to contemplate your own personal meaning. For those of you that know St. Vincent, songs like this don’t usually feel like her forte. In fact, when I think St. Vincent I think collaborations with David Byrne and a lot of happy go lucky noise, noise, noise. For her to really have accomplished such a strong committment to the eeriness of the song that is very subtle is just something to be admired. Recorded live at the Allen Room in New York it is a true testament to the influence the National has domestically. Next week we will look at the National abroad!


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