- 16 Oct 20
The National’s frontman teams up with Booker T. Jones on tender solo debut.
His poignant reflections on the human condition, paired with his rich baritone, have marked Matt Berninger as one of the most captivating songwriters of the 21st-century. After eight studio albums with The National, he’s finally decided to step out into the spotlight with a powerful solo statement, Serpentine Prison – featuring dark, insightful ruminations on the state of the world, and the state of the people within it.
Produced by the legendary Booker T. Jones, the album finds Berninger in somewhat familiar territory – but forgoing the lush alternative-rock embellishments for stripped-bare folk and soulful country-rock touches. Like the sewer pipe draining into the sea imaginatively referenced in the title, there’s something inexplicably desolate about much of Serpentine Prison – with the title track delving into addiction on a personal level, as well as the wider ills of the modern world: “Cold cynicism and blind nihilism.”
An overarching battle-weariness carries throughout the project, with very few surprises or drastic changes of pace – but in the wider context of a wild and unpredictable world, Berninger’s steadiness is comforting. And even when confronting the uglier aspects of life, there’s a healing element encased in Berninger’s warm vocals – providing a soothing balm for troubled times.