Song of the day: THE NATIONAL – Mr November (2005)

There are some songs that are total stress-busters. These are the tracks that work best when you’re coiled up with frustration, inarticulate anger, or just desperately need to let off steam. They are the songs you leap around and punch the walls to, the songs that you can bawl out at the top of your voice, and everything immediately feels better.

Some examples I can think of from the top of my head include Nomeansno’s “The River” (and “Joyful Reunion” for that matter), most of side two of Zen Arcade (especially “I Will Never Forget You”) right through to Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have”. They all have the sort of choruses that are like a hole punched in the side of a high pressure vessel. Interestingly, a fair number have swearing of some description. It’s odd how a good cuss can be therapeutic

A favourite song fulfilling this (increasingly needed) function over the past couple of years is the National’s “Mr. November” from the Alligator album. It’s obvious that the song is about chronic under-achievement and a massive fall from grace – but it has a rousing defiance all the same. Even if there’s the nagging feeling that failure is just around the corner. The details are oblique in parts. Who are the English and why are they waiting?

This is nothing like it was in my room
In my best clothes
Trying to think of you
This is nothing like it was in my room
In my best clothes

The English are waiting
And I don’t know what to do
In my best clothes
This is when I need you

The English are waiting
And I don’t know what to do
In my best clothes

I’m the new blue blood, I’m the great white hope
I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November
I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over

I wish that I believed in fate
I wish I didn’t sleep so late
I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I’m the new blue blood, I’m the great white hope
I’m the new blue blood

I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November
I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over

I wish that I believed in fate
I wish I didn’t sleep so late
I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

I’m the new blue blood, I’m the great white hope
I’m the new blue blood
I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November
I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over

Of course, it’s the chorus “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November, I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over” that makes the song. It’s an anguished howl of defiance – a ‘fuck you’ in the face of adversity. Hell, it works for me.

The National performing Mr. November live at Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco on 27th June 2007

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