The National, a band known for their evocative lyrics and atmospheric sound, returns with Laugh Track, an album that further delves into their introspective and subdued mood. This release comes on the heels of their previous album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, and it’s evident that the two are intertwined, both in theme and in sound.
The album’s inception can be traced back to the band’s 24-year mark, a time that often proves pivotal for many artists. Drawing parallels to R.E.M.’s trajectory, The National’s recent works have been characterized by a more restrained and reflective sound. While some might argue that this shift has led to a certain sameness in their music, it’s also allowed for deeper exploration of themes and emotions.
Laugh Track is not just a continuation of First Two Pages of Frankenstein. It’s a response, a reflection, and in some ways, a refinement. The band has taken feedback from their previous release and incorporated it, most notably bringing drummer Bryan Devendorf back to a traditional drum kit. His presence is immediately felt, adding a layer of depth and dynamism to tracks that might otherwise feel too restrained.
Guest appearances on the album, including Phoebe Bridgers and Justin Vernon, add texture but don’t overshadow the core essence of The National. However, Rosanne Cash’s collaboration stands out, offering a fresh perspective and a hint of what could be if the band were to further diversify their sound.
One of the most intriguing tracks is “Smoke Detector”, a raw, Velvet Underground-inspired jam that showcases a different side of the band. It’s a departure from the rest of the album, hinting at the band’s versatility and potential for future evolution.
While Laugh Track might not be a complete departure from their recent works, it’s a testament to The National’s commitment to their craft. They’re not afraid to experiment, to reflect, and to evolve. And as the album concludes, one can’t help but feel excited for what’s next. Will they return to their rock roots or continue down this introspective path? Only time will tell.