The thing that I love about The National is they come across as normal guys. And not just normal guys in a rock band but normal in the have a job and go to bed at 9:00, make your own coffee before work and check the mail when you get home kind of guys.
It took me about a year to get into their most recent album Trouble will Find Me, but I am finding all kinds of nuggets of truth; real life, normal guy, kind of truth in it. When Matt Berninger sings “God loves everybody, don’t remind me,” or “There are things that I should never laugh about in front of family,” you feel know that he is experiencing life in a similar way that you are.
My favorite song off of this album is ‘Demons.’ This song, like most The National songs doesn’t really build but simmers on low heat and ends just before the pot boils over, culminating with the realization that “When I walk into a room I do not light it up,” which really kind of kills the mood but reinforces the normal guy motif more than perhaps any other The National lyric yet penned.
‘Demons’ is a song about growing older and looking back and realizing we have not become what we had always dreamed we would be. I feel like a lot of my favorite songs are about this at this point in my life. But as many people say when they are dashing your gleaming dreams of the future, we are all time travelers, moving into the future one second at a time. Sometimes we peer forward and sometimes we look back, and Demons is looking back.
Whether he is “…secretly in love with everyone that I grew up with,” or “…hiding among the younger viewers,” Berninger is lost is a past that he can’t erase or relive. As the song progresses Berninger pleads to stay in a place and ‘paint the blood…on the door,’ wanting death to pass by, perhaps looking for more time to deal with the past that seems wholly unsatisfying to him.
In between all of this the chorus tells us simply “I stay down with my demons.” I think that this simple line reminds us of the dangers of living in our past, even though sometimes it is difficult to avoid.
The chorus reminds me of an instance when an eight year old version of myself tripped a friend from church on the pavement because he was being annoying. As he got up with bloody knees I almost immediately realized that it was me who was in the wrong (and also I was probably being the annoying one). And I would think that every ‘normal guy’ probably has hundreds of instances like this in the past that he cannot seem to forget. I am sure that the friend that I tripped does not remember this incident but I do and thinking about it from time to time is how I “…stay down with my demons.”