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A Review of First Two Pages of Frankenstein by The National 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

Have you ever read a book that completely absorbed your existence, fused your mind and soul into mere pages, tore and twisted your heart, engrossed your presence entirely–only to reach its inevitable end? You cling to the very last words, desperately wanting to feel it all again once more. You re-read the book and come to the bittersweet realization that it will never be the same again. The isolation crawls inside your sleeves and whispers to you, “This is the end. You can let go now.” With Matt Beringer on vocals, guitarist/keyboardist Aaron Dessner, guitarist/keyboardist Bryce Dessner, bassist Scott Devendorf, and drummer Bryan Devendorf, The National’s ninth album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, miraculously conveys the universal feeling of loss, grief, isolation, and longing in a way that resonates with their audience rather than confining these melancholy feelings to a certain relationship.

Whether it is the mourning of a loved one, a friendship you were convinced would last a lifetime, a breakup that left you feeling as though they took a piece of you with them, engraving a lasting feeling of loneliness, no one pinpoints these feelings better than The National in their new album. The title itself references the first two pages of the classic book Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, where the lead singer, Matt Berninger, drew inspiration from the blank and desolate wastelands to combat his writer’s block and, with that, his state of depression. The themes of isolation and loneliness appear in “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend” and “Alien.” “Your mind is not your friend” effectively depicts themes of mental illness and depression. The lyrics, “Your mind is not your friend again. It takes you by the hand. And leaves you nowhere. You are like a child,” personifies the mind as something that will turn against you and instill a feeling of helplessness. I think all of us have probably experienced a feeling of betrayal within ourselves when we become disillusioned with a person or a situation. This song features singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, and her tender and warm vocals act as a soothing contrast to Berninger’s raw and emotive performance during the chorus. Although the sound may begin as excruciatingly depressing, it is truly a masterpiece that highlights the depths of depression and its effects on an individual. 

We all have something that reminds us of what once was, whether that be an old t-shirt with the faint smell of perfume, an old movie, song, or book–an artifact of the past. The National’s “Eucalyptus” illustrates a relationship that has run its course and having to think about all those little artifacts that evoke now distant memories. The opening lines, “What about the glass dandelions? What about the TV screen? What about the undeveloped camera? Maybe we should bury these,” beautifully resonate with the significance we give to mundane objects in our everyday lives. The recurring theme of reminiscence of the past appears in the song “New Order T-shirt.” Through the deeply personal lyrics, “I keep what I can of you. Split-second glimpses and snapshots and sounds. You’re in my New Order t-shirt, Holding a cat and a glass of beer. I flicker through.” The melody of the song soothes the audience with an overwhelming comfort that everything is going to be okay. It’s necessary to hold on to memories, to feelings, and even the pain they bring. The line, “I carry them with me like drugs in a pocket,” portrays an immense feeling of vulnerability in terms of emotions and memories that have the potential to destroy you. The lyrics in this song are crafted with a simplistic ingenuity that spills into the hearts of its listeners. 

In Lexi Hayden’s “Relit Cigarette,” she says, “What the hell was I thinking, putting a match to that old flame? Ain’t it a shame? A relit cigarette don’t taste the same.” The National’s “The Alcott,” featuring special guest Taylor Swift, is the perspective of that flame being rekindled between two former lovers attempting to reconnect. Matt Berninger and Taylor Swift sing together, “I tell you my problems. You tell me the truth.” As the song reaches its climax, it truly becomes alive as Swift captures the spaces between Berninger’s lines, imitating a sort of dissociated dialogue where she echoes every phrase. Although this may be corny to some, especially the line “I think I’m falling back in love with you,” it is truly a representation of the ingenious variety of which The National is capable.  

The National’s ninth and most recent album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, captivates their audience with relatable feelings of loss, loneliness, and isolation that, as humans, we are bound to feel at least once in our lives. The stringing together of these simplistic ideas and events creates a heartbreakingly relatable album that should not go without praise. After listening to “Eucalyptus” and “New Order T-shirt” on repeat for the past week, I can say with a heavy heart that it will never feel the way it did the first time I listened to the album from beginning to end. 

Rida Shahbaz

St. Andrews '27

I am a first-year at the University of St. Andrews, and this is my first year writing for Her Campus. I am majoring in Neuroscience but I love writing, whether poems, short stories, or articles. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue my passion for writing through Her Campus. I grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but now live in Canada in a small town an hour north of Toronto. Growing up, I moved houses and cities a lot, so my idea of ‘home’ was constantly changing. This sort of led me into an identity crisis where I’d often feel like I was in limbo–not particularly belonging to one place. Something that remained a constant for me was writing; it was a way for me to trap my thoughts in time. In all the impermanent aspects of my life, I could cage my words onto paper and create a home between the spaces of each sentence. Through my writing, I hope to make a difference, albeit it is as small as making someone laugh, cry, or both. I truly think there is something so beautiful about moving someone with words. Being a woman of colour and being raised in different parts of the world, I often sought comfort in reading and listening to the experiences of other women. Her Campus allows me to pay that forward and hopefully reach an audience that longs to feel understood.