August 14, 2008

this river’s full of lost sharks

The first song on The National‘s 2005 album Alligator is also one of my favorites by them, ever. There is an ineffable quality to “Secret Meeting” that I never tire of listening to — the fantastic percussion that firmly anchors the song to bedrock as the luminous guitar chords dance and skitter above it. But in the midst of the beauty it has a darker chaos thrumming just beneath the surface, as with so much of their music. Berninger sings agitatedly about spies, sharks, and paranoia, all the second-guessing and questioning that forces a retreat to this secret meeting in the basement of his brain.

And the song feels exactly like an internal monologue warring. The indistinct yelling in the background builds towards the end to echo all our anxieties. But you can’t quite tell what they are so urgently telling him to do, like that dream where you can blindly feel around the edges of coherency but can’t quite grasp where you’re running or the mission you are supposed to be fulfilling. Are they yelling just drop the dice and roll it? Don’t draw the ace and fold it? How are you supposed to place your bet, to play your game, when it sounds like this inside your head? But I know exactly what that feels like; I think we all do.

The song builds into gorgeous chaos as everything degenerates and clamors inside before that final chord, the crash of the cymbal, the curtain fall and the lights out.

If you’ve never listened to The National, or never heard this song, I find it really hard to not love.

Secret Meeting – The National

i think this place is full of spies
i think they’re onto me
didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you
didn’t anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room
i know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, i know

and so and now I’m sorry I missed you
i had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain
it went the dull and wicked ordinary way
it went the dull and wicked ordinary way
and now i’m sorry i missed you
i had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

i think this place is full of spies
i think i’m ruined
didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you
didn’t anybody tell you, this river’s full of lost sharks
i know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, i know

and so and now i’m sorry i missed you
i had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain
it went the dull and wicked ordinary way

it went the dull and wicked ordinary way

What I would have given to be here for this moment, this electricity:

SECRET MEETING
LIVE IN ZAGREB, CROATIA (NOV 2007)

BUY: Alligator by The National. Or this cool shirt I just ordered.

[photo from the University of Chicago: Library Graffiti set]

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4 Comments »

  • always nice to read something from another National fan. great info on a great song.
    -a.m. hatch
    amhtch.blogspot.com

    A.M. Hatch — August 14, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  • One of my favourites too – lovely piece of writing, I think you captured the mood of the song perfectly.

    last year's girl — August 15, 2008 @ 2:42 am

  • Definitely my favorite song by them and I was hoping you could explain or you even knew, what that line at the end of the song actually means, but …. never mind.
    thanx for your work,
    ocboddity

    ocboddity — August 16, 2008 @ 7:20 am

  • LOVE this song. The minute it starts — those first notes, that rhythmic roll — I am pulled into the world of the song. Never tire of it.

    Saw them at the Wiltern last year and they were GREAT. I had friends who didn’t go because they thought Boxer wasn’t as good as Alligator. Poor them, because when the two CDs were blended into one show, it was spectacular.

    janey — August 20, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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