The Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge

A plainer and more harrowing journey than its predecessor, Starlite Walker, The Natural Bridge is a compendium of despondence and comically terrifying imagery from singer/songwriter David Berman. Its instrumentation is perfunctorily strummy and unadorned; Berman’s vocals are a function of his storytelling and forego any pretense about the singer’s role in rock music. His wry delivery is the setup for a series of bittersweet punchlines—emphasis on “punch”—that extend the length of The Natural Bridge; this is the rare pop album that relies almost entirely on its words. The album is a loose description of a sour American road trip. Berman is attracted to bars and motels and abandoned towns, and he gravitates to unlikely locales: Cleveland, Dallas, Tchula. His protagonist is a perennial figure in the arts (the hopeless man with an undying heart), but even as The Natural Bridge crosses bleak chasms, Berman can't resist the pull of romance. In its final seconds, the album turns to the redemptive power of female companionship.

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