This year’s Latitude sees The National returning to the top spot at Henham Park for the second time. Their performances at the festival can accurately chronicle their rise to the very top of the indie-rock game: in 2010, just following the release of ‘High Violet’, the band headlined the festival’s biggest tent, in what felt like one of the sets that took them to the next level. Indeed - the following year, they returned to headline the festival.
Five years on, and The National are back in Suffolk as an even bigger band. There’s been no new recorded material since 2013 album ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, but the band find themselves entering a new era in the run-up to this Latitude, with new songs in their pocket. Speaking of these tracks, Matt Berninger said recently: “I’m not sure if we need another great ‘National song’ - I’d rather try to do some other stuff and fall on our face than make another record that is interchangeable.”
The first of these new songs, 'Checking Out', was debuted live at a Los Angeles show back in October, and is an uncharacteristically keyboard-heavy cut. Berninger sounds as morose as ever though, after his somewhat funky side-step with the EL VY album. Lyrically, its hook of "I don't wanna fuck it up" places the track, previously (or maybe still) called 'Roman Candle', into familiar territory for the band - a brand of social awkwardness and self-deprecation that the band do better than any other.
Two more tracks followed at a recent gig in Toronto, the first being a track supposedly named 'Hague Blue'. It feels sharper and more awake than the often dirgy yet brilliant 'Trouble Will Find Me', and Berninger's yelps feel more potent than ever.
'The Day I Die' is the hit though - it's helmed by Bryan Devendorf's trademark rollocking backbeat, and is the band at their very best. Where every other track the band have premiered live has shown restraint in buckets, 'The Day I Die' bundles headlong into a cacophonous finale worthy of entering 'Mr November' territory.
‘The Day I Die’
All of the songs, presumably destined for the new album, definitely fit on a so-called 'National album' that Berninger doesn't want to blindly reproduce, but have enough progression and individuality to push the band forward, as they've managed with all of their six albums so far.
Just when 2016 looked relatively free of activity for The National, the flurry of new tracks has shown the band to be at the peak of their creative powers, and bursting to keep on going. Their show at London's O2 Arena at the end of 2014 - the last gig of the huge world tour for 'Trouble Will Find Me' - felt like it could've been the peak for the band. Latitude is their first UK show since then, and is set to be a great deal more important and transitionary a set than first thought.
The new tracks point to something extremely exciting for LP7, and the Latitude set is the perfect opportunity for the band to launch themselves headfirst into their future. Be there.
Photo: Mike Massaro / DIY.
The National play Latitude Festival on Saturday 16th July.
Taken from the July 2016 issue of DIY. Subscribe below.