April 19, 2011

Review: Natural Child :: 1971

The album cover for Natural Child's debut record 1971 sets the tone for this vintage and straightforward rock & roll affair. First, this is by no means a glamour shot. Rather, Zack (whose eyelids suggest he just came out of a long meeting with Mr. Bong), Wez, and Seth all look as if they've been called to work mid kegger and are being forced to pose in their parent's living room with the soft yellow lighting producing a warm glow of faded portraiture. I can't see a carpet, but my imagination is telling me it's shag.

Throughout the record's 11 roaring tracks and 30-plus minutes, a hazy time-warped feeling permeates as if the listener has been transported to a house party in the 1970s with pot and cigarette smoke hovering around the ceiling and plastic beer-spattered cups littering the floor.  That vibe is introduced as the growl of rumbling guitar on album opener "Easy Street" is met with a mantra of sorts: "Let me get that stoned / Get me a pussy shot / Get me a girl that's hot / Get me a TV spot / Make my record hot." It's as if to say, "Yes, listener, you're in for a wild ride." And if the bubbling bong in the track's outro or the 4/20 release date weren't clear enough, yes, it's time to break out your stash.

But don't let the overt drug references or debauchery fool you: there's something special brewing here. Infused with a history of southern blues and country music along with everything rock & roll under the sun, 1971 is the kind of ramshackle and noisy good time bands like an Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, or Lynyrd Skynyrd might have recorded if they started out as a garage rock band on a shoe-string budget. Sure, it's wild, but it's also convincingly timeless with a sound that's as big as your volume nob let's it get.

One of the most compelling tracks on the album is "Let It Bleed." Commencing with a slow walking drum and bass and a heartbroken narrative ("Walking around town in the summer sun / Wondering if our love is done"), the song at first recalls other love-torn classics and 1970s staples like "Tuesday's Gone" and "Love Hurts." But then Natural Child takes off, trading heartbreak for anger with ferocious pounding drums and a fiery electric guitar hammering its way into the picture ("Now your touch makes me feel nothing"). Then something changes again around the 3:20 mark and the trio leave anger behind for a truly beautiful and startling vocal harmony that would make Mick Jagger proud: "What do you do when your love's almost dead / Let it bleed." It's a dynamic and dexterous track, at turns dark and sweet, that proves Natural Child more capable and serious than they let on. Indeed, this is a truly great band and they're only just getting started.

From the fuzzy chug of "Hard Workin' Man" to the acoustic foot-stomping and front porch hollering "Woman, C'Mon," Natural Child display a contagious affinity for making and playing music. By the  time the aptly-titled album closer "Beer" comes around, you'll be wishing for this party to never end.

Natural Child - "Hard Workin' Man" (from 1971)
Stream: Natural Child - "Let It Bleed" (from 1971)

Order the LP at Infinity Cat.

Natural Child

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