With the Dessner twins being thought of as the backbone to The National, and Matt Berninger the frontman/mind of the band, the Devendorf’s, the group’s other set of brothers are often over-looked. Since everyone had been heading out in 2015 to work on other projects, Matt’s album with Brent Knopf as EL VY, Aaron Dessner’s Eaux Clare Festival with Justin Vernon and Boston Calling Festival, and Bryce’s work on the score for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s now Oscar winning film The Revenant, it was about time to see what the Devendorf brothers were up to.
LNZNDRF, are named by taking the last name of their collaborator, Ben Lenz (of Beirut), and adding their own (Devendorf), and then removing the vowels, a la other groups like MSTRKRFT (pronounced “Mastercraft”). Thus, Lenz-Devendorf, which by that theory should become “LNZDVNDRF,” was simplified by removing the middle “DV” and becoming “LNZNDRF,” which is still pretty unpronounceable, unlike “Mastercraft.” I guess you’d say it like “Lenz-en-dorf?” I don’t know really. They didn’t make it easy.
Another thing they didn’t make easy was the ability to like their music. While a bit harsh, it’s coming from a die-hard National fan, so you know it wouldn’t have been said had I not meant it.
Recorded in two and a half days inside of an old church in the Devendorf brothers’ hometown of Cincinnati, the material seems like it was never even designed for a church acoustic setting, especially since the mention of the church here doesn’t add to or illuminate anything about the sound of the record; it might as well have been recorded in a studio. While their part in the National is easily identifiable, the point of LNZNDRF isn’t so that you can listen to eight songs and be able to see what the Devendorf’s add to the National song-writing process. It isn’t some kind of “look we’re here too, notice us!,” Apl.de.ap and Taboo-esque, kind of project.
“That the Achilles’ heel of LNZNDRF comes from the vocal territory should come as no surprise,” remarked Ron Hart of Pitchfork, and it’s true, where the instrumentals can be dull or unexciting, it’s never just outright bad, like Scott or Ben’s vocals here on the record. Not just “bad” per say of taste, but that it just doesn’t fit, like on “Monument,” which sounds like two timbre’s fighting each other for the spotlight. Ultimately, LNZNDRF was just plain boring, and it’s six-minute long tracks were more sleep orienting then they were enjoyable to listen to. With all respect to the Devendorf brothers, I love how they fit in the process of the National rather than when left on their own.