May 29, 2024

The Natvral – ‘Summer Of No Light’ – “Big punchy choruses”

DIRTY BINGO RECORDS 1st September 2023

Pure classic singer-songwriter stuff with a sound going back to pub-rock / power pop. Big punchy choruses, strummed riffs, touch of the straining personal commentator and the odd verbal aside thrown in.

You may as well start at the beginning with ‘Lucifer’s Glory’ (the first single from the set); classic chords and pushy beats push it on in a way Jesse Malin would be very happy with. ‘Carolina’ follows and sees solid use of minor chords for a wistful feel to the big pop tune. The use of the organ and some pedal steel even harks back to great Americana, such as The Band, though, in truth, it belongs as much alongside The Replacements, Nick Lowe, Billy Bragg or Wreckless Eric, who had an album out just a week before this.

The Natvral is Kip Berman, formerly the singer with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (2007 to 2019). The album was recorded mostly live in a studio in London, with an intention to keep it simple, which it does. There is an immediacy and directness that adds to the fun and the emotional directness.

Another lockdown album, written mostly in a cellar after the kids were in bed, seeking release from the daily COVID world. Feeling personal, some manage to touch on topics from Berman’s reading. For example ‘Summer Of No Light’ gets it’s title from Tambora’s volcanic eruption in Sumbawa in 1815, that brought about a food crisis across Europe the next summer. Somehow, even though there are songs about death and desertion here, the sound of the album is an upbeat classic power pop jangle. It works as a release from the confining daily domestic grind of that period, where his head and his cellar were the extent of freedom. You can hear that in ‘Your Temperate Ways’, where his desire for wild abandon contrasts with his lover’s more constrained needs. Other love songs include ‘Wait For Me’, a paean about death and ‘A Glass Of Laughter’, while he’s careful to end with a song about his real wife. He acknowledges the craft in creation, saying “I’m far from a teenage runaway beholden to only my art and pleasure and though there are moments where that sounds tempting, this music would not exist if I were.”

This belongs to the great American singer-songwriter tradition – strong in feel, strong in drive, strong in punchy choruses. What makes it special is the direct link to the universal impact of lockdown on Everyman. Berman says; “It was a time that is now almost unspeakable – not because the tragedy was too profound or in any way trivial – but because we were all there.”


Ross McGibbon

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