10 November 2011
Second Hand Record Dip Part 77 - Natural Life - Strange World
Who: Natural Life
What: Strange World
Where: de Plaatboef, Oude Gracht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Cost: 50 Euros
It was a funny time, the early nineties, filled with a combination of political angst and grooved up music. It might sound perverse and desperately unfashionable now, but back then (my son) you could form bands with very specific political lyrical agendas and squeeze endless albums out of them, whether their specialism happened to be feminist, Marxist or Anarchic rhetoric. Not only that, but people actually thought they were slightly cool as well.
Natural Life are a particularly odd case in point, having been promoted as an environmentally conscious rock band with long hair, recycled record sleeves and singles which had a rather hollering, angsty outlook combined with big guitars and shufflesome beats. Subtlety never seemed to be on their particular agenda - this disc, for example, mentions shotguns very close to the call-and-response line "Sing it to me sist-errrr!" suggesting that their ambitions were to fill huge arenas rather than the local bar. Like a number of otherwise forgotten bands in this peculiar post-eighties period, there was a flavour of both the rapidly exiting baggy bands and the stadium ambitions of Then Jericho in their work, a dominating sense that all bases were being covered to appeal to as wide an audience as possible so their messages could be heard by all and sundry.
The B-side exercises their alternative roots a bit more keenly, being a dub-rock excursion which sounds incredibly like the festival-goers dance music of choice back in those days when Glastonbury was only just beginning to seem like it might be important.
This was their debut single which failed to chart, but the follow up "Natural Life", complete with a video featuring the band running, skipping and jumping through the Spanish wilderness posing with unplugged instruments, jumped into the UK Top 50 after Radio One and ITV Chart Show support. That proved to be their swansong - their album failed to chart, no follow-up was forthcoming, and like David Icke, the concept of Green rock music never really bothered the mainstream in the UK again. The drummer Shovell would later find gainful employment in M People, the whereabouts of Jon Spong, Darren Hunter, Liggy Locko, Mark Mathews, Ray Wilson and 'Big' Sydney Holdforth remain less clear.
The video for "Natural Life" also seems to be unavailable on YouTube - although I'm guessing somebody somewhere must have an off-air of the Chart Show episode it was broadcast on - but you can see them performing "Strange World" live here.
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