Matt Berninger's Serpentine Prison - What You Need To Know
Matt Berninger is frontman of beloved and big-selling indie types The National, but this week he goes it alone with his debut solo LP, Serpentine Prison. Here is everything you need to know about it...
A little background...
After the long world tour that followed The National's 2019 record, I Am Easy To Find, the band went their separate ways to focus on individual projects. Aaron Dessner and his brother Bryce have been focused on producing and string arrangements, with both working on Taylor Swift's new album Folklore, among other things, while drummer Bryan Devendorf has delivered a solo album.
With time away from the band, frontman Matt Berninger has filled the gap with a barrage of projects. These include working on songs for a new TV musical adaptation of the 1897 play Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, with Game Of Thrones favourite Peter Dinklage in the lead. So, for fun, Berninger decided he'd make a covers album.
He had plans to include tracks from The Cure, Mercury Rev and the Beastie Boys on the compilation, but, while working away with new friend and legendary producer Booker T. Jones, he sent the producer two originals he'd been working on that didn't fit with his other work.
Encouraged to pursue them by the producer, two turned into 12 new songs. There are plans to release the covers at some point, but for now, it's just an all-new LP from Berninger.
Who's producing it?
Memphis multi-instrumentalist and all-round icon Booker T. Jones is behind the desk on this album, with some additional production from Sean O'Brien.
Any special guests?
We might be here for some time, with Berninger calling an awful lot of help from an awful lot of friends. Chief among them are folk singer Andrew Bird, Gail Ann Dorsey, David Bowie's long-time bassist and Beirut's Ben Lanz and Kyle Resnick, who've both been part of The National's live set-up for a while.
As well as this, members of The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater and EL VY, Berninger's punk rock side project, also help out.
What does it sound like?
The key question when any frontman goes it alone is always, 'How is it going to sound different from your day to day?'. Or, to be crueller, 'Is it just a collection of songs your band didn't like?'. That's especially true when you've got a voice as distinctive and enveloping as Berninger's. But this is a few steps away from what The National do.
A lot of that is down to Jones' production, which is light and crisp and stripped back. The natural heft The National seem to find on every track is gone.
This record owes a lot more to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave, with stark jagged sonics built delicately around Berninger's voice.
Does it deliver?
Absolutely. It's an intimate, sparky and interesting record. We can't wait to hear those covers too...