By Henry Lipput
With a band name like The Nature Strip, you shouldn’t be surprised that their songs are about, among other things, the ocean, insects, the moon, and the weather.
Beetle Bones is the third full-length album from this Australian band made up of John Encarnacao, Pete Marley, Jess Ciampa, and Matt Langley. It’s the first one in which the songwriters Encarnacao and Marley each contribute an equal number of songs (they also co-wrote one of the tracks). The styles and arrangements are as different as the song subjects and include 1960s guitar jangle, psychedelia, new wave, and post-punk.
With the rocker “Tide Song,” the album kicks off with a Mike Campbell-like riff (think “American Girl”). It’s one of Encarnacao’s songs; and you’d think that, along with his even crunchier “Hildegard and Winifred” later on the album, that this is the sound he brings to the album.
But right after “Tide Song,” we have the acoustic pop gem, “Break Through,” a terrific example of what Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens once called “that striped sunlight sound,” on which, it seems, Australian bands have cornered the market.
Encarnacao’s “Eyes Are Blinded” is a slow burner and another example of how The Nature Strip use musical elements from the past to create their own sounds. With a mix of “Got To Get You Into My Life” horns, Middle Eastern-sounding organ fills, and a great lead guitar solo as the track winds down, “Eyes Are Blinded” is a song that encourages repeat listens. And his “Broken Leg” could have been a solo Sid Barrett track.
Marley’s songs are just as wide-ranging in subject and style. “Waterfall” is a splendid mid-tempo number with a great vintage 60s organ as part of the mix. I really like his description of being inside the watery veil: “Staring out through sparking raindrops / Waterfall is crushing me.”
His “Peace And Light” swings and is a wonderful showcase for his bass playing (he plays bass on the new Fallon Cush album, Morning, and has also been part of that band’s touring ensemble). “Peace And Light” also features some amazing drumming in the extended instrumental break. “Inside Voice” combines the sounds of new wave and Crowded House to create something new and extremely catchy. Marley’s “Supermoon,” which closes the album, is a fine example of gorgeous pop craftsmanship and contains jangly guitars and a marvelous melody.
Beetle Bones is out now on China Pig Records.