Ex-Pains Of Being Pure At Heart frontman Kip Berman delivers another set of instantly engaging folk rock
If you know Kip Berman better as the driving force behind earnest shoegaze wonders The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Natvral will prove something of a curveball. Berman’s first project since Pains is more about jangling guitars, shimmering organ and Highway 61 Revisited verbosity, a far cry from the anthemic jangle of the old days.
Album number one, 2021’s Tethers, was a marvel of heartfelt lyricism, thrashed-out folk rock and wounded balladry. It’s a new look, but Berman wears it so well that you suspect anything would look good on him.
With his follow-up, Summer Of No Light, Berman shows just how quickly he’s growing into this persona. It confidently seizes the baton from Tethers and runs like the ground’s disappearing beneath its feet. From the off, everything feels tighter and leaner and the choruses hit even harder.
‘Lucifer’s Glory’ kicks things off with a perverse anthem that takes one look at the type of people who “win” in this world and opts to lose instead. In this day and age, it’s an easy sentiment to side with. From there, it’s a game of one upmanship, each song scaling higher until the superb ‘Summer Of Hell’ leaves nowhere else to go. Berman’s reedy vocals and the bed of pianos and lap steel give the impression of Dylan fronting This Desert Life-era Counting Crows.
‘The Stillness’ mixes grit and tenderness in equal measure before ‘A Glass Of Laughter’ introduces a dash of Tom Petty to The Natvral’s classic cocktail. It’s a terrific rolling rocker with untold depths, as Berman stares time and change in the face and embraces both instead of retreating to the safer ground of youth.
Few writers can match Kip Berman for stirring the brain and the heart while still providing a relentlessly good time with loud guitars. His character sketches offer intriguing glimpses into relatable scenes, much like the awkward cab journey home on ‘New Year’s Night’ from Tethers or the relationship post-mortem on ‘Stephanie Don’t Live Here Anymore’.
As he once eloquently voiced youthful conviction and confusion with Pains, now his treatise on time and ageing feel similarly precise. Berman’s music has grown with him and it’s a joy to behold.
Release date: 1 September 2023
Label: Dirty Bingo Records
On tour: TBC