Certain Songs #1228: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

Album: High Violet
Year: 2010

The National hit their peak with 2010’s High Violet, 10 songs full of tension and release, none more tight and explosive than the single “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” one of the very greatest songs in what I thought was the best year for music since the early 1990s.

Like most of the best National songs, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is driven by drummer Bryan Devendorf, who plays a beat that is continually battling itself, over which — led by Aaron Dessner’s chiming piano — the rest of the National toss out a drone that is deep and endless, like maybe something from Forever Now.

Over this glorious noise, Matt Berninger — shirt askew, carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees, so we already know that we’re in a surreal world — slowly builds to one of the the great verses of the 2000s:

I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
I never thought about love when I thought about home
I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
The floors are falling out from everybody I know

I still owe money . . . to the money . . . to the money I owe” is one of those lines that kills me, pretty much capturing the depth and hopelessness of crushing debt in a single line, and of course, even more powerful as it’s delivered with Berninger’s usual matter-of-fact understatement, which carries into the chorus, just drunk enough on wine to feel spacey and contemplative.

I’m on a bloodbuzz
Yes I am
I’m on a blood . . .
Buzz
I’m on a bloodbuzz
God I am
I’m on a blood . . .
Buzz

As the band swells and swells behind him — a cacophony of drums, keys, guitars and horns — there is a whole infinity of space between “blood” and “buzz” when Berninger separates them out, making “Bloodbuzz Ohio” deep, dark and mysterious: a song you could hear countless time and never get to the bottom of.

Official Video for “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

“Bloodbuzz Ohio” performed live in the studio

“Bloodbuzz Ohio” performed live in 2011

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