I first heard I Am Kloot on a free Uncut CD that my mate’s dad lent me, and they’ve slowly become one of my favourite bands. That song was “To You”, which opens up Natural History and sets the tone nicely for a series of similarly scrappy earworms.
I love it when singers make no secret of where they’re from, and John Bramwell made sure he put his Hyde accent to good use before the Arctic Monkeys made it fashionable to do so – the words “lovely”, “ugly” and “good stuff” in “Stop” just wouldn’t sound the same coming from anybody else. This lack of polish makes its way into the music as well. Recorded by Elbow’s Guy Garvey, it’s clear this was done on a bit of a budget before everyone had really learnt their chops (compare this with Kloot’s last two albums, which Garvey also had a hand in), but it’s this ragged nature that really gives the album its character.
It’s hard to pick a highlight, with the weather-beaten trilogy of “Storm Warning”, “Sunlight Hits The Snow” and “Morning Rain” all being songs any writer would be proud of, but for me, “No Fear Of Falling” just pips them. Reminiscent of “Blackbird”, the beautifully simple melody and the melancholic lyrics mean that this gets me every time. It’s a sound they’d try to repeat on later albums (“Proof”, “Shoeless”), but they hit the nail right on the head with this one.
In terms of the overall quality of the album and production, the record that came after this is probably better. However, Natural History feels a lot more personal – like we’re watching the band from behind a curtain in their living room. This warmth and intimacy means it’s probably my favourite I Am Kloot album, and one that I always enjoy returning to.
(NB – The bassist in I Am Kloot once called one of my mates “Billy Big Bollocks”. That’s a true fact that.)