Boxer is where The National became The National as we know them. People often talk that way about its predecessor, 2005’s Alligator, the one where they figured themselves out after the warm-up sketches of their self-titled debut and Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers. And that isn’t entirely untrue. Alligator was the album where people started to really take notice, the album where the National began to establish some of the core elements of their sound, the album with several songs that still rank as classics in the band’s catalog. But when the National released Boxer, things started to cohere in a different way. This was the beginning of the National becoming one of the foremost rock artists of this century, the album you can credit for the band’s stature, sound, and identity today.
Toiling in a practice space on the side while most of them maintained steady day jobs, The National took their time finding themselves over the course of the early ’00s and their first two albums. With Alligator’s arrival in 2005, they had one of those “great albums you might’ve missed this year”-type releases, but also played shows where Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! opened, and chunks of the crowd left before the National’s headlining set. But there were long-term impacts. The amount of fans and critics who were keeping an eye on this band had increased, and Boxer was the first time they were really under pressure to deliver a satisfying followup. It was the moment where they could solidify their standing or drop the ball. There was danger of becoming one of those bands that has that one great album lost in the mess of a particular era and scene.
Of course, it didn’t go that way. The National followed Alligator with an album that was less immediate, subtler, more restrained — and it’s now often regarded as their definitive work. Against most odds, this album of ornate-yet-subdued music set the stage for them establishing an arena-indie sound built for the 2010s. This was the start of the National not just being one of the notable names in a particular scene, but one of the iconic rock artists of this century, no longer tied to the frameworks of the time and place in which their career took off. – Stereogum
1. Fake Empire (Live In Brussels)
2. Mistaken For Strangers (Live In Brussels)
3. Brainy (Live In Brussels)
4. Squalor Victoria (Live In Brussels)
5. Green Gloves (Live In Brussels)
6. Slow Show (Live In Brussels)
7. Apartment Story (Live In Brussels)
8. Start A War (Live In Brussels)
9. Guest Room (Live In Brussels)
10. Racing Like A Pro (Live In Brussels)
11. Ada (Live In Brussels)
12. Gospel (Live In Brussels)