Bob Dylan anyone? The similarities between the legend that is Dylan and Kip Berman’s new solo project The Natvral are quite staggering if we’re honest. Since his last album with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart in 2017 (The Echo Of Pleasure), Berman has undergone some huge changes to his personal life, resulting in a move away from the indie pop associated with his band to something more akin with the biggest name ever to be adorned with the folk tag.
Simplicity more than anything has shaped this record. Coming after a move away from the band environment and devoted, seemingly endless studio time as songs are perfected, it’s all been replaced by a shorter period devoted to music, ideas more hastily recorded and filed – done and dusted in a week, in fact. This is because things that are far more precious than musical ideas have come along – firstly a daughter, and then a son. Berman has also uplifted his New York roots, moving from Brooklyn to Princeton, New Jersey, a move aligned to that of a more family orientated outlook, perhaps.
Although this is a solo venture, his first such offering, it’s not exactly flying solo in the truest sense of the word as old band mates are present at all turns. Neither is it self-produced, that duty falling to Andy Savours (Black Country New Road). The Dylan similarities, though, are at the heart of the entire collection and what defines the record.
Opener and lead single Why Don’t You Come Out Anymore is the first of many to employ wavy organs, electric guitar and whiney vocals, all three aspects regularly associated with Dylan after his early folk guise made way for the, at the time, shocking detour into electrics. And, tellingly, it’s pretty darn good. As is Sun Blisters, a similarly rooted effort, this time seeing a bigger organ part as it plays out a solid supporting melody.
References to age crop up more than once, like on the excellent Sylvia, The Cup Of Youth where the opening bars kick off remarkably like Fine Young Cannibals’ version of Suspicious Minds, the electric guitar here compelling, almost like a shanty by The Pogues. New Years Night is suitably awash with revelry and fun, its bouncy, upbeat nature all over in less than three minutes. New Moon goes back to the subject of age again, specifically turning 33, for a more subtle ballad as Berman croons, “it’s time to save what’s left of your life”.
Stay In The Country sways away from Dylan briefly, sounding more like Neil Young as it evokes memories of Southern Man, whilst another top cut Alone In London closes the album in style, moving from slow beginnings before building into something far bigger.
All in all, Tethers may be a first solo departure for Berman but it’s impressive nonetheless, as is the way in which it was put together in such a short space of time. Imagine what he could do if he put the kids into day care.