Album: El Prado
By: John Verburg
When reviewing Los Angeles based band NO’s debut album, one is hit over the head immediately by a comparison to “Boxer” era The National. Lead singer Bradley Carter’s baritone is a near identical match for Matt Berninger’s, and the music is made for arenas. In fact, NO’s sixth track on “El Prado”, ‘There’s A Glow’, essentially rips off the drums on The National’s ‘Squalor Victoria’. At least at the beginning of the track. So, maybe it is no surprise that ‘There’s A Glow’ is actually one of NO’s most pleasing tracks. You can decide for yourself if the similarity makes for an issue for you.
NO doesn’t waste any time in making their arena sized aspirations known on “El Prado”. First track ‘Leave The Door Wide Open’ is no doubt a pleasing song to hear live on the stage with booming vocals, drums and building choruses. With Carter’s vocals at the forefront in the mix, NO chugs through 53 minutes of music with considerable confidence, but its when the arrangements are at their softest where the band works best. ‘Stay With Me’ hints at some of the desperation that Berninger and company do so well and so naturally. and ‘North Star’ rewards the listener for hanging in. Third track, ‘What’s Your Name?’ has a bit of an Interpol tinge to it, as does fourth track ‘Monday’.
Individually, and as a whole, there is a lot to like about “El Prado”. The songs are solid to very good all the way through. Unfortunately for NO, they aren’t likely to escape the comparison to The National, and because there is such reverence for that band, NO is always going to suffer a bit for that. I am sure that NO isn’t trying to be The National, but regardless of intent, they are doing a pretty good imitation. There are worse bands to be compared to, but in the end, the original is always tough to surpass. The world is big enough for a couple bands with this sound, even if small bars aren’t. That’s a compliment NO. I want to hear these songs live. I have a feeling that a few of them just might blow the roof off.