Don't be fooled by the purring electric piano and jangling guitar that opens Secret Meeting, the latest single from The National's critically acclaimed Alligator, hides something more sinister, as lead singer Matt Berninger's mordant baritone immediately warns. "This place is full of spies," he sings.
This is the claustrophobic heartland of Berninger's paranoia. Delusional or not, the sentiment, powerfully expressed, will appeal to everyone who has ever had a broken heart and the bitterness that follows. It is a feeling underlined by upbeat instrumentation and a delicious burst of melody.
Berninger is a skilful writer: the depth of emotion expressed in his songs belies the economy of his lyrics. Secret Meeting is typical. A handful of lines are repeated to enforce the sense of bitter, overwhelming madness. More poetic is the B-side The Geese of Beverly Road, recorded live. The recording loses some clever imagery - "We'll take ourselves out in the street/And wear the blood in our cheeks/Like red roses" - in the mixing, and Berninger's normally rich voice sounds cracked. To really appreciate a fine, fine song check out the album.