Another heavy helping of nostalgia, lyrical madness and intricate musicality has been served up in “Paul is Alive,” the third single off the upcoming collaborative effort by The National’s frontman, Matt Berninger, and Brent Knopf of Menomena and Ramona Falls. This artistically experimental group, titled EL VY, is set to explode at the end of October.
“Paul is Alive”
From the song’s very first plucked notes and cleared throat, “Paul is Alive” buries the listener in waves of nostalgia. Berninger sings of a “sugar-coated childhood” lying far back in the past now, back there in a place where his mother’s favorite band, The Beatles, wasn’t broken up and half dead. Despite the gloomy narration of Berninger’s monotonous vocals — a voice that sits us down in the favorite jockey club of his 16-year-old self where he first found The Cramps and The Smiths and cried into his 7-Up — EL VY quietly, and elegantly, juxtaposes this lyrical heaviness to the light and layered nature of the song’s instrumentations.
As the song progresses, lyrically and sonically, the sedated pleasure that Berninger has for the past envelopes the song. The music ebbs and flows upward, building from the simple chord progressions from which it started as the lyrics concurrently grow in depth and inner conflict. Now that the older Berninger is aware of the unchanging velocity of the present, and the constant nostalgia for the past, he can remain aware (and numb) in his current reality. “Nobody stays above, out in the waves of love,” he sings. The only solace to be found was back in with his 16-year-old self, hair slicked back and teary-eyed with a 7-Up in hand, where “inside the jockey club, I’m even with heaven.”
The depth of the lyrical storyline in EL VY’s new “Paul is Alive” is so haunting and moving, but as Berninger’s syrupy vocals glide from verse to verse, pouring on the nostalgia until the listener is drowning, the uneducated or non-fan of The National may lose interest. But to them I say, build some taste and emotional depth. And to the highly talented men of EL VY, I say, you’re depressing me.