Release Date 09/27/2018
(Run For Cover/Help Yourself) NACC
Start All Over Again – the debut album by Seattle’s The Berries – is a study of the mythology of freedom. It is an exposition of the spaces where rosy-faced conviction and the desire to destroy the self, mangling and spitting out something called “belief,” hung up to dry and, to paraphrase Gram Parsons, set to the tune of “cosmic American music.” It is a modern country-rock record by Matt Berry, otherwise known as The Berries. The album is made up of songs of love and hate, songs under the spell of Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt, and songs carved out of the disappointment of a morose Seattle winter. It is pure music without any struck poses, performed authenticity, or aspirations of “making it” in today’s often frantic and distracted music culture. Don’t trust it, but do believe it.
For those paying close attention to the West Coast’s underground rock scene, Berry perhaps needs little introduction. He has already created a name for himself as the prolific mind behind such treasures as the lushly blown out Happy Diving (Father/Daughter Records) and the tautly psychedelic, Wipers-esque Big Bite (Pop Wig). On Start All Over Again, however, Berry replaces the relentless pace and anxious stylings of his shapeshifting past with a new frame of mind, one derived from excessive reclusion and aimed at indulgent self-awareness, expansion, and a deep fascination with Americana. Besides a single guitar track contributed on the song “Turn It Away” by Charlie Hoffman (of Help Yourself Records label-mates Advertisement), Berry performed and recorded the entirety of Start All Over Again by himself, laboring away over a series of sessions that consumed most of the second half of 2017. As a group, The Berries oscillate somewhere between a fictitious creation in Berry’s mind and a proper rock band. In Berry’s words, “Calling it The Berries does suggest it is a band. And in a sense, it is. I need a live band to make it happen, and if you play with me you are as much a part of the band as I am in that moment. But, is there room for outside interpretation during recording? Not really. Recording for The Berries is an extremely lonely experience, meant for me and only me to enjoy. And to have that private recording experience brings me a lot of satisfaction.”
On Start All Over Again we are reminded of many forbidden and delicate things. For instance, the best songs don’t look for truth. Rather, they dwell in mystery, exposing false fact to the elements. As the world seems to continue to go to shit, to tumble into disarray and the chaos of over-stimulation, many of the modern rock guard have looked away, fleeing into vague songs of desert escapism and anti-politics, ignoring the complicity of existing here and now. Against this apathy, Berry recovers a long-lost sense of urgency, a notion of spiritual communion, which has always sat at the heart of American music.
On opener “Salvation,” Berry ruminates on the idea that love is the ruler and ultimate power of the universe. Against a backdrop of warm drums and sweeping country licks that twist beyond themselves, he challenges the modern urge to whitewash art with banal cynicism and self-righteous abstraction. “Security Blues” glows with a similar sense of conviction, turning its gaze toward the grim conditions of urban living. When describing the song, Berry laments the world around him turning into an ugly, gentrified, and tasteless playground for tech-elites: “Gotta start all over again, I guess. Go to some other city where this isn’t happening, but in doing so, am I perpetuating the problem? It’s fucked. Fuck the bourgeois attitude behind it.”
The track “Live To Please” burns like a strung-out fire raging in the most heavenly of houses, and “Junkyard Dog” offers one of the most daring takes on country-rock songwriting in years. These are not protest songs, but rather explorations of alternative ways to view the possibility for freedom in a modern world.
Start All Over Again is the sound of doves flying through webs of digital mesh, of modern songwriting pressed to a perfect 12” vinyl. It takes its cues from the uncertainty, egoism, and surveillance culture of our moment, yet instead of turning inwards towards the safety of repetition and introspection, it bursts outwards into a selfless future.
The record is available via Run For Cover Records and Help Yourself Records on October 26, 2018, digitally and on vinyl, CD and cassette.