Beer? Give me Bloodbuzz.
I’m originally from Ohio. Whenever there’s a reference to the Buckeye State, I smile. So, when I heard The National’s “Bloodbuzz Ohio” (from the just released High Violet) I couldn’t keep the corners of my mouth from rising a bit.
I realize for most, Ohio is just another, depressing, fly-over, Midwestern state. While there’s truth to that, that’s not the whole story. The part of Ohio from which I come was pretty rural, pretty rundown. Then, Honda came and the industrial jobs popped up everywhere. There was steady growth. Folks built new homes and bought bigger cars. The second half of my childhood saw a boom in Ohio’s economy, standard of living. Superficial and consumptive? Sure, but it was the kind of wealth people from that part of Ohio rarely enjoyed.
And as the rest of the economy has gone, so has Ohio. In fact, Ohio may be worse off than most states. It’s in really bad shape and it doesn’t help that so many people racked up loads of debt to build those new homes and buy those bigger cars. It’s pretty depressing these days.
The most depressing part for me is that I don’t really have a piece of Ohio anymore. Yes, I have family and friends there, but that’s still just a Facebook connection or familial tie or both. Ohio’s not part of my being the way it used to be. Ohio’s tattooed on my arm, but she doesn’t remember me.
Anyway, Matt Berninger of The National gets that sentiment. There’s something to be said for the laments of white guys who are suddenly smacked in the face with the responsibility of a family and mortgage as the rest of the world crumbles around them. It’s a privileged life, but one is not allowed to feel sorry for one’s self when the American dream is being realized.
Then, I think about Ohio. These things go in cycles. Will things always be this hopeless/full? That kind of stress weighs on me. Apparently, it weighs on Berninger as well.
And this is why I appreciate The National. Everything they do is weighty. They feel the pressures I do. They drink to forget…or to remember. I can’t figure out which.
There’s the low grumble of a Cohen poetic. Strings carry; grooves ground. There’s space in their songs, but it fills arenas with its echoes. There’s the urgency of the moment. There’s experience. There’s something real going on here.
I won’t bore you with my white-guy-in-his-mid-thirties bullshit anymore. I won’t bother with footnotes. The potential for them in this post is eternal. I’ll just leave you with the fact that The National make good, heady music. Here’s a record you should buy. Let it marinade for moment. As it sinks in, remember or try to forget. High Violet is the kind of record in which one can get lost or find one’s own Ohio. I can’t figure out which.