The National - A Skin A Night / The Virginia EP

The National - A Skin A Night / The Virginia EP

Like their music, the film ultimately rewards those with the patience and perseverance to sit it out and admire a band in their creative flow.

Rating:

The National’s ‘Boxer’ proved to be one of the highlights of 2007, a brooding and sentimental piece of work that gave us the luscious delights that was ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, ‘Squalor’ and of course standout track, ‘Fake Empire’. The Virginia EP’ / ‘A Skin A Night’ is a CD and DVD set that covers much of the ground between the end of 2005’s ‘Alligator’ album and the recording of ‘Boxer’. Essentially, the music contained within is comprised of a number of B-sides that didn’t make the cut, a selection of demos that showcase all that could have been and a couple of live tracks.

Of the B-sides it’s the collaboration with Sufjan Stevens that stands out the most. ‘You’ve Done It Again Virginia’ could have easily found itself amongst its peers who made their way onto the album proper, with its gloomy outset, it’s another indie ballad aimed squarely at those with a lonely disposition. Propping this up is the haunting ‘Blank Slate’ that begs to be let loose from its refrained time signatures, but is all the better though for it. Flirting with the likes of Six By Seven at their finest, the track holds a mesmerizing quality, which, sadly is not the case for the remainder of the B-sides and demos. Nonetheless, the demos do make for an interesting listen, whilst a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Mansion on the Hill’ and a live ‘Fake Empire’ are potent reminders of the band’s power.

The hour-long documentary, ‘A Skin A Night’, is a curious insight into the band’s shadowy world. One part road movie, one part recording nightmare, famed French director Vincent Moon sheds light into the painstaking efforts that made ‘Boxer’ into what it is. Following the band’s often frustrating efforts to get things perfect, we see a band that, more often than not, seem to be sulking at each other when not laying down the foundations to their intense slices of musical lushness. Like their music, the film ultimately rewards those with the patience and perseverance to sit it out and admire a band in their creative flow.

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