I woke up this morning with Matt Berninger singing in my head. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. The National is one of those Bands whose Songs burrow under my skin and swirl around in my subconscious. The half soothing/half haunting baritone of Berninger’s voice plants Stories in me that are far and beyond the Songs themselves. I’ve felt that way since the first time I heard The National and was reminded of it again when I woke with “Slow Show” dangling off my tongue. I knew I’d have to Press Play and Listen to it as soon as I could. I knew I’d be singing-a-long.
“Slow Show” by The National
from the Album, The Boxer (2007)
I think one of the reasons that The National is one of my go-to Bands when I’m writing is because Berninger’s Lyrics are often so odd, veering between literal moments that you can identify, to odd descriptions and scenarios that are near impossible to pin down (“Bloodbuzz Ohio”, for example). When doing a bit of research on The National, and “Slow Show”, I found an article with Paste where he was asked about each Song on The Boxer, including “Slow Show”, and these Lyrics specifically:
“I wanna hurry home to you,
put on a slow dumb show for you,
and crack you up.”
That one’s actually kind of literal, wanting to get out of some anxiety-filled public situation, where there’s a party of something and you just want to escape and be home, close the doors with someone that you really care about and just be stupid and laugh. Forgetting about social pretenses and how you have to act in public, you can just be a fool with this person, you know, ugly and awkward and silly and they won’t judge you.
For me, it is this Lyric that stands out, and shakes loose a significant time and place in my memories:
“A little more stupid,
a little more scared,
every minute more unprepared.”
I’m reminded of a past relationship that was fraught with complications, long distance, and broken boundaries. I remember feeling completely out of my depth within it, even within some of the more blissful moments. Every moment, every decision and move we made I kept questioning, over-thinking beyond extreme, frightened that the friendship that came before the relationship was risked at every turn. Somehow I knew we’d lose something because of it, and I never wanted to lose the “us” that came before. The Lyrics above take me back there almost every time I Listen.
Its funny, I suppose, that a different Song from The National came out of that relationship. A Song we shared that was actually my introduction to the Band and their Music. Yet, it is this one that takes me back there, to Hotels on each side of the pond, and to misguided attempts at love between two best friends. “Slow Show” grabs my hand gently and leads me back into those days, and sometimes I welcome the visit. Other times it hurts too much to go back.
“You know I dreamed about you,
for twenty-nine years before I saw you.
You know I dreamed about you,
I missed you for,
for twenty-nine years.”
There’s something in the “29 years” in the Lyrics above that get to me, too, and connect back to that time. Thinking back, was that his age? I know it wasn’t mine. But there was a gap of age between us. Another “complication”, though in all honesty, it was the lesser of them.
These repeated Lyrics, they seem so soaked in sadness. In loss and disappointment. As if something you’ve wanted when realized never lives up to the dream of it. Or maybe that’s just how I’m taking this Song in today.
On a lighter side of the Lyrics, it may be the only Song I can think of that has the words “my dick” in it that is not a parody, or derrogatory in nature. Can you think of a love Song/melancholic Song with a Lyric about “my dick”?