The National, ‘Sleep Well Beast’


Aidin Vaziri | The National shakes off its perpetual 3 a.m. slumber on “Sleep Well Beast,” the group’s seventh studio recording and its most animated yet. Fueled by singer Matt Berninger’s recent enthusiasm for California’s lax marijuana laws, his involvement in the slightly funky side project El Vy and the impending doom brought on by the current political climate, the dapper quintet cuts loose and embraces its inner Radiohead. Touches of disco, brass and glitch-laden synths seep into songs like “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and “I’ll Still Destroy You,” while the title track seems to simultaneously disintegrate as it grows louder. Not everybody will be on board with the band tearing off the cobwebs, but there’s no denying the National sounds reinvigorated.


Pop Quiz: The National


Aidin Vaziri | Matt Berninger, lead singer of the National, is doing double duty. He’s promoting “Mistaken for Strangers,” a hilarious and heartbreaking new tour documentary about the band directed by his scruffy younger brother Tom Berninger. He’s also on the road for the group’s third or fourth pass through the country in support of its most recent album, the Grammy-nominated “Trouble Will Find Me.” We spoke to him on opening night in Toronto. The National performs this week at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.

Q: I went into it expecting something like Radiohead’s “Meeting People Is Easy” but it’s more like Will Ferrell’s “Step Brothers.”

A: Totally. To be perfectly honest, there was a certain amount of anxiety about what Tom was going to come up with. The plan wasn’t to make a movie, just some goofball videos for our website. When he got fired and we heard that he was working on a feature-length documentary, there were some red flags that went off. Not only is Tom not the slickest documentarian, but he was there for some less-than-flattering moments. When everybody finally saw it, it clicked why this is the best kind of movie for the band. It almost feels like a National song.

Read more.