Friday, October 30, 2009

sounds like

something struck me

it's a common compulsion to identify 'influences' in music - even if they aren't there. 'sounds like artcic monkeys, ya. though she says she's never heard them even.'

it's even more common to dismiss music that seems to mimic other music. 'ohmygod. do they KNOW they're (insert trendy band) derivatives?'

my question is, isn't it more important whether someone is enjoying a sound than whether it's been done before, done better, or overdone?

you can't expect everyone to be a sound snob, you know.

(it's true that i might have written this in hopes of hiding the fact that i listened to Celine Dion on repeat when i was 17, or at least to absolve my deep sense of guilt about it, but actually, i just want us to stop a minute and think about the real beauty of music - it's not how' good' it is, it's how good it is for the listener. it's true of course that music is fighting to be heard and that the masses have managed to have pretty lame taste (and we're not too sure who's to blame, but we'll blame the media in the meantime), but next time you hear someone listening to what you think is a kak band or solo artist, maybe introduce them softly to your sonic heroes, instead of looking down your musically literate nose at them. (and use it for sniffing out new sound, too)

it brings to mind something that PASS says
that music is a meeting place...

Monday, October 26, 2009

tsk tsk

photo : mikael subotsky

tsk tsk, blk jks. four men of colour on the run (for doing what you please and giving everyone The Finger while you're at it...)

...sounds like the future...

click on blk jks tag below for more...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

equal time

isochronous is the better way to spend a weekend.

inspired, intelligent, enthusiastic and sincere, they embody the many meanings of their band name. best of all, it's members are more articulate about their art than most and ready to rock along with the rest of us. They look good under flashing lights, and better in daylight, and their one-liners last a lifetime. in case you think they're beyond the blessings of bullshit, they talk as much kak as they do complex theory, and they know that the word play means 'fun' before it means 'refine'...

so until the content from a day's shoot and a night's shooters is ready for you, therefore, consider what could well turn out to be Marco's meme:

"we killed god the day we gave him a name"

(and behold franco and alex fingering other people's playthings below...

p.s. if anyone can tell me where those bruises, scratches and burns came from, i'll be grateful... it certainly wasn't from the silky soft beach sand or the easy night air...maybe it was the grass? i definitely don't remember how i got home, but i believe i owe it to Dom...

feeling clever? come back down to earth.

wit and whiskey - a chat with valiant Vernon Swart

Vernon Swart is a veteran of live music living life large in a small town. jezebel stole off to Stellenbosch to meet a man respected for hitting things with sticks and painting naked chicks.

No early fader, Mr. Swart shares a surname and a past with blues rock band Valiant Swart. While it was sometimes kak to give tannie her weekly dose of sokkie draai in a penguin suit, his live performances paid his way through university. You could say he’s has seen it all, at least, as much as you can see from behind a drum kit behind the guitarist and bassist behind the stage lights. He even remembers some of it through the haze, though it’s left him half deaf in one ear. I went over to find out about then and now, and ended up talking philosophy and the future. Normal, I suppose, when you start with whiskey at two pm. And anyway, what’s normal in the music industry? This man survived hecks, thugs, and shlock and droll to become a proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society...

jezebel : Tell us something we didn’t know

Vernon : Valiant always introduces me on stage as his brother, but we’re not blood relatives. But when we fly, the plane ticket is in his real name, and I’m V.Swart, so sometimes I get upgraded to business class.

Your lad Lucas is the drummer for indie-blues-rock band The Pretty Blue Guns. Like father like son?

He started playing classical guitar at school when he was very young. Then Karen Zoid recognised his talent, and he started jamming with her. One day the local church up the road announced that they needed a drummer – it was Andre, Greg and Brandon. He borrowed my sticks and went up and played. He had grown up hearing blues. I didn’t think much of it until one day I listened to them play and I realised he could play.

Funny, the Guns’ roots, when you consider songs like Devil Do. Both your boys are musical –is it in the blood?

I think there’s a musical sensibility that came through me somehow (though it’s sure as hell not my musical knowledge). Reuben was actually the one that wanted to play the drums, in fact that he was the one that was persistent. There was a long hiatus when I didn’t play, and there were drums around. I gave it all up to and be married and mow lawns while I was a teacher in Cape Town. I had a lot of musical collections, and they listened to a lot of music. Ruben always wanted to play and my excuse was that he wasn’t big enough yet (for the drum kit). Until Rueben said, ‘you know dad, how long do my legs need to be?’

Do you think many of today’s young rockers will be making music when they’re past 30?

I would love to say yes, but the sad reality is that many give it up, for many reasons, for better or for worse. You just have to look around the top bar at Oppi Koppi where so many bands signed their names over the years, and then quietly faded away, or went out with a bang. It's a tough job, not for sissies.

You’ve seen your fair share of creativity and counter culture, commercial and corporate. But now what would you do if your son gave up music and wanted to become an accountant? Or a lawyer. Or a married, lawn-mowing man…

I would go out and buy a big hat and eat it if either of them did that, but the old cliché applies, they could do anything they wanted and daddy will always love them.

Valiant Swart shared a gig with the Guns really early on. What was it like?

Valiant was always very supportive of new talent that way. They were pretty bumpy. But Valiant immediately saw it – that Andre’s got it. They were there on time, and we were late as usual. Valiant looked at their instruments – we couldn’t’ believe what these kids had – strats and fenders - stuff we couldn’t afford. I’d give my left ball for a Strat…

What is the role of constructive criticism in the evolution of musical creativity?

I’m not sure that there are many people that are actually experienced and articulate enough to voice their criticism. The question is what is the criterion to be a music journalist?

Good question. I guess nobody likes to be told they’re kak, but musos do want the public to buy their (sometimes kak, sometimes superb) mp3s.

Criticism is essential for any creative process. As much as artists might say that they're creating for themselves and they don't give a shit what people think etc etc, they are still out there performing and peddling their wares for the people. Artists wear their hearts on their sleeves, and they all want positive strokes. Criticism can motivate or demoralize different bands. Unfortunately, the standards of commentary fluctuate immensely. As we know, there is no such thing as absolute objectivity, but some journalists, especially the more inexperienced ones, tend to glorify their favourite bands and knock the others, musically and personally, which doesn't do anyone any good.

Parting thoughts?

When I quit teaching art, the principal of the art centre took me aside and said, ‘do you realise what you’re letting yourself in for, you’re now surrounded by responsible people that will always support you, but now you’re letting yourself into this drug infested chaos.’ But you know, it’s those people who are in the chaos who stick by you, through it, after it.

Bless you, Vernon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

fokken dans

last friday was a treat. foto na dans @ my favourite outdoor stage @ klein libertas (before it was broken into and trashed), then the lua union @ a revamped indoor stage @ Kunskafee (that was after arriving at Corner Bar because i'm dyslexic and forgetful, and finding bergies howling and bludgeoning each other while paramedics tried to patch them up). On either end of the scale of experience, this was a night that began and ended with my two favourite bands. (sorry taxi; my cock fell off after too many rock-outs). of course i might be talking about either end of the scale of MY emotional experience, or of their professional experience, and you wouldn't know any better (or would you? there's a comments box below...) i probably mean both; i'm a freelancer, we wield the world while it works us over - we're always playing and always working. (imagine when i get a blackberry, then i'm going to write stories in my sleep!)

I've already waffled about lua ( , about what struck me about them that night. but foto is another story. especially when you find yourself almost interrogated about your enthusiasm for their music. this bears some explanation, i guess. people, most often, are as extreme as i am about foto, either in agreement or in vehement confusion about what it is they're trying to do. The most frequent disagreement i hear is one that simply saddens me, because really, it's about personal taste, and no one can change that. 'ya, um, rocking music, but i don't get the guy's voice.'

no? wow. ok, i get people being a bit thrown by the (iwillnotusethewordoperatic) singular, cathedralesque vocals - it's not quite an amy lee wail (whale?), and it's not quite a Seething scream. but rock has other realms, you know, and best we open up to them as the world opens up to us... there are realms more subtle and superior than the ones going crashboombang and passing pop cock off as interesting or important. ag. i mean rock. (or rocks! get your rocks off with your socks off, georgie porjy! and kiss berlin for me).

i get le-roi's voice. it gets me, in all the big places. like my heart. and my head. and my hope. and i guess if it doesn't sit right with you, there are only two ways to address it -
1. don't bother
2. think of it like a fine, old whiskey, or a strange new wine - get to know it

but what people don't say most often is what is the most important element of them being a brilliant live act. They are consistent. Humble and unholy on stage, nice to the sound engineer FROM the stage, full power, full focus, full blast. a quality act like no other i've seen and heard and felt in ZA.

(and they understand the power of a good light rig, too. a live show is not, after all, just an aural experience . it is love in action, and every sense is involved.)

involve your senses, and get beyond them...

and stop questioning yourself.
the answer is in your blood.
which is in your bones.
which let your body.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Lua Union - an ethereal mix

Unlike a beer boep, balance in a band is not something affected by training or straining. It's personal, it's professional, and it's mystical.

Balance in a band is not something that can easily be pinpointed, either. I'm talking about that place where things work - the x-factor that gets things going. It may not be anything tangible, this mix of personal relationships, inspiration and hard work, but it reveals itself in the mix, on the stage, and behind the scenes.

With the imminent release of an evidently synergistic single with Flash Republic, the members of Foto Na Dans are starting to enjoy a certain 'same page'ness, making the build-up to their second album release in Feburary 2010 rather phat. The Lua Union, it seems, was born with this balance.

The Lua Union doesn't sound like a band that have only been playing for a little under eleven months. Yes, its members are still settling into their onstage skin; yes, lead vocalist Dean hasn't been a frontman for very long; and yes, bassist Jonathan (who prefers the mandolin) hasn't been in the country for very long, either. But they strike you neither as first timers, nor as amateurs. In effect, they're not really first timers or amateurs at all, at least not in a 'My First Guitar' kind of way though i'm sure some of them still insist on playing theirs. Their drummer, Francios, is a former Springbok Nude Girl. Their lead guitarist, Lucas, is the drummer of The increasingly Pretty Blue Guns. Still, previous experience is only one element in the synergy of a collective sound and it certainly isn't a guarantee of good music (just as four accomplished musos might not necessarily produce good material together). There's something else that makes a band work interpersonally and musically, something that makes it manageable and magical. That something is a mystical balance of bodies, minds and souls that lets others swallow the songs whole, and The Lua Union is a great example. Break it down, jezebel...

Drummer Francios is unphased - the root, the rhythm. Calm and warm, he keeps time with increasing sensitivity to the complexity in the songs, and syncopates its overall sound with sublime simplicity. Bassist Jonathan keeps the troubled artist cliché at bay with taut mood swings and tight strings; he is, in turn, inspired or indifferent, and by turns brilliant or bad (and i mean bad in the best sense), throwing his weight around like he doesn't have to hang on to poles when the South Easter blows. Dean is the dirty clown - bewhiskered and bewhiskeyed, he's inhumanly at ease on stage (it's almost like he doesn't realise he's on stage at all), and his bassy vocals are bottomless and his banter between songs an extenstion of his tigger spirit. While none of his characteristics seem to match each other, his velskoene and dress shirt often do. It's good for a front man to be a bit of a maverick, methinks; keeps 'em guessing. The one who keeps 'em guessing the most is the one with the least to say and hopefully lot more to sing in the near future. Lucas is the introvert, the essence, the intensity of The Lua Union. Dreamy yet undivided, his is a subtle stage presence that often surprises those who bother to work out who's doing what in a song. Watch those fingers fly, watch the room invert. If you catch his eye between shy golden locks rocking during a set, just smile - he'll get it... because he's got it. Together, these musicans are a torrent of melody that moves the cynical to joy, the criminal to change, and the minimal to main. Last night they were superb under Kunskafee's a new look and lights (and somehow still kak sound rig.)

You could feel it far beyond the front row - all four settled right into the rhythm despite a very late and undeservedly unprofessional sound check (Kunskafee, are your systems in check?). Despite that, it was pure sound channelled through flesh and blood and bone. Their unusual vocal harmonies swell with the same mood and intensity as the soaring, snapping strings do. The seamless, invisible bass blends in beautifully, backing everything, giving it substance you can't see, and the drums are intelligent enough to spar with the melodic attacks and crashes, but never beat them. Overall it's beautiful, powerful, poignant stuff that either stops you in your tracks or rips them right out righteously.

"They often remind me of Radiohead," yelled Adam Innuendo during a swell and swoosh from the guitars. I suspect Adam wasn't comparing The Lua Union to Radiohead aurally, per se, but talking about an overall dexterity and diversity; a demeanour, rather than a musical aesthetic. The next song came on, and I leaned over and yelled back at him cockily "but they don't remind you of Radiohead NOW." That's the thing about The Lua Union - their riffs and rises often recall some or other expert band, but their compositions sound nothing at all like anyone else. This is what has me so excited about them. God knows what or where it is, but they've got the muse.

They've also got the musicality and the unaffected magic to make it.

taste it

touch it

and tell others about it

(want more? ask nicely)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

kinky reggae

i'm quite sure my kind and graceful mother would have happily hosted every single louse on bob marley's head, had she had the choice or the chance. i say this with the greatest respect. She is a consummate fan, and as a result, i am rarely impressed by any other reggae music.

Bob Marley is womb music, something that lulls and loves you, and for me, a sound before birth.

but Bob Marley is dead.

still, death is not something to deter pop culture or african evolution, so while True Blood looks at the afterlife and Ramfest is bringing back Boo! and The Narrow, it is fitting that Jump Media should play jesus too. or, rather, jah.

no, you can't resurrect the flesh of a dead legend, but you can recreate the rhythm, especially if you have the original jammers. Jump Media are hosting Bob Marley's backing band, The Wailers, in Cape Town, November 2nd.

tickets are not available at computicket. check out the site(s) for details.

i've been listening to so much music lately, my brain is not working properly. so i actually can't think of a clever lyric to quote. maybe you can?

p.s. this one's for you, mom.

tick tock tick tock

(i'm just saying....)


this news got out of bed with me this morning. (but it's a lot fresher)

in a continued effort to raise the dead, ramfest are bringing hexy back with


in 2010

now there's something to get your knickers in a knot about.
(if you care to compete)

(and no, it's not just chris's rock show. it's the original set - intact, intense, insane. monki-punk fanatics can call their psychiatrists and cancel the next therapy session...)

big up to ramfest for setting standards and living the love (and even mortgaging their house for it)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Plus-sized pop from Wrestlerish

jezebel chats to Wrestlerish about the Other Cape Town, dirty takes and making up your own words…

(bear breasted for Wrestlerish)

Arnold’s. One o' clock. Queen is warbling in the background, we’re arguing about Freshlyground, and Jacques has a split end on his beard. This is what 8 years in music industry and 8 months in the ring do to you.

It's the day after Daisies, nobody’s eating the all-day breakfast and I’m wondering about poetry, semantics and grammar. Grammar doesn’t really matter to Wrestler…ish but Dave, Gav, Jacques and Werner have oiled their instruments to fit their sound somewhere between your winter woes and your summer throes of ecstasy. Or, as Gavin puts it, “Dude, seriously, I’m pulling it out to show you. “ (he’s talking about the split end, but it’ll do as a lead-in as well)

Wrestlerish regularly receive kudos and compliments from the cloister otherwise known as the underground in-crowd (as in, INvolved, INvested, IN all the way, not just putzing around pretending to play an instrument). But when I mention them being part of the marvellous music that comes out of Pretoria and INcludes the likes of Isochronous, they promptly (and politely) correct me. “we’re actually not a Pretoria band. We’re a Gauteng band.” (ok what exactly do you think that means? Is this like Bellville versus city bowl again? Or bowl versus ‘bosch? Sigh…)

With roots in SHU, half of them have been at it for almost a decade. So, couldn’t they just skip the apprenticeship and board the wow-ship? No way, they say. They might have previous experience, a deal with a major label dangling in front of them and the honour of opening for Dear Reader’s upcountry album launch (well, I think it’s an honour, anyway), but they want to be tight as a junkie’s jugular before they go large. “It’s kind of refreshing TAKING the steps,” offers vocalist and guitarist Werner Olckers, “you’re less likely to fail in the future.” It also gives the band time to synergise their live act, which is something no amount of previous playing experience can affect without practise.

In the interim, support seeps from diverse avenues in social media and snaps happily along many of musical lay lines that connect musos and local live music aficionados across the country. Wrestlerish is a bit bewildered by it, really, and really quite grateful. “We don’t feel like we’re part of the clique. The stuff pushing the boundaries is definitely coming from Pretoria. But the best rock bands are in Cape Town without a doubt. “

So the guys are happily honing their honeysad pop melodies on the live scene. They call it ‘paying your dues’ (which sounds a bit like ‘playing to the clueless’) and when I ask how they feel about awkward slots at festivals they talk about climbing the ladder as a new band. ‘If you play an awkward slot, you have to take the positive from it. We don’t want to stand out negatively. We feel we’re not there yet. I do want people one day to walk away from a show and go’ wow that band really put everything into it’, but we aren’t there yet.’

So where are they? Totally independent. Touring. And on time for interviews. Which makes up for their in/appropriation of the word wrestler. Ish.

We argue about mixing and mastering and mumbles in recording. Wrestlerish like mistakes. They want you to see the bones in an album, because it’s more honest than overproduced pop. Personally, I’d rather not hear you cough and curse when you hit a flat note, or fluff up the lyrics, (though I’ll forgive Ben Harper’s heartbreaking sobs and Jeff Buckley’s haunting howls, and Bon Iver‘s anything). Their strongest argument for bits and pieces being in the mix-down is aural authenticity. “I don’t ever want to be part of a band that records something and can’t perform it live…”

But then the other extreme is the act – I’m dubious about ‘applied performance’ - onstage energy that’s created by effort instead of charisma. But on the issue of rocking out (even if you feel like passing out), they’re impassioned. “You have to step up to perform better. it’s not an exaggeration; it’s an extension of the song. You have to communicate with the crowd. The live experience is one of the main reasons we do it. You can’t see performance on a CD.” You also can’t see the creative process.

So when it comes to penning and strumming songs they let it flow. “We don’t over think it, we write a song, we move on. We just like writing hooks. If Gavin’s humming it afterwards, it’s a success.”

Seems they agree there, but try getting them to agree to a genre. After throwing a few hybrid monosyllables around, we settled on folk pop-rock (or was it country?)

The bassist must intercede “ I don’t hear the folk.”

“Bluegrass, then” someone butts in while I’m looking down at the keyboard and trying to keep up.

“No way, bru!”

I roll my eyes, and decide for them. “Bru-Grass, boys; it would be Blues but it’s too happy, it would be Bluegrass but it’s not that snappy… it’s you.”

Is it? don’t quote me, quote them : “We don’t perform drunk. When you’re drunk it’s harder to say the name.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

Subtle and sexy

Photographer Marguerite Oelofse

listening to her demo, it seems

Lindi Suttle

has what it takes to be our next Tracy Chapman*.

But in an age of aesthetic intelligence and digital DIY, the requirements for this are a little more than an amazing voice and unique compositions, though Lindi has the ability to tick both off her list with a graceful arc of arm. Besides having lots to gush about, i have some thoughts on where the nips and tucks should take place if her public exposure is to equal her talents.

it will have to wait till we've romped around in boots and bikinis together at rocking the daisies...

*(an aside for the politically correct police - this thought has nothing to do with Lindi being black or a woman, it's based entirely on her performance and her voice. If you're still cynically and smugly in doubt, consider that i used to think Josh Grierson was a contender for the role, till his music took a different direction

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pan African Space Station / redefine Africa /

The Pan African Space Station Festival has logged off. The opening of October saw four days swimming in a celebration of sound that reached so far, it redefined 'African'. I caught 3 of its shows and cried twice.

My first gig, the War Chorale, was what i'll call the developmental leg of the fest - an accomplished composer conducting a youth choir and orchestra. At the entrance it sounded like hell let loose (which is ironic, because it was held at St. George's Cathedral, and you have to wonder how many crimes were committed in Africa in the name of god), but once inside, it subsided into experimental forays of choral song and jazz arrangements. Bheki Khoza composed and directed the Chorale, with a sense of humour and a sense of timing, throwing improv at everyone like the party trick that it is. Pity his poor students seemed to have neither, and often gulped like guinea pigs before launching into the moment he'd prompted them to be part of. The pianist was captivating, the combination of genres intriguing, but the sound rig was substandard, and we did try moving around to find the live spot in the sound. No luck. A strange experience. But great to see an investment in young talent and expose it to a mature audience.

The second i nearly missed. I knew Toumani Diabate was coming to town for this fest, but i did not care to sit through another session of bad sound at the Cathedral. Luckily a wise friend convinced me otherwise, pointing out that one instrument is a lot simpler to project into an empty vault than a whole choir and orchestra are...and that was when i met the kora.

The kora is an African instrument that makes the harp look half-hearted and overdressed. It's body is a calabash covered in skin. Its neck has 21 strings made of something as simple as fishing line. You play them with 4 fingers. Base. Melody. Improv. 4 fingers! It's beautiful.

Toumani is master of his instrument, 71st in his family line. His compositions are compellingly meditative, his demeanour doubly so. He jibes the audience with a subtle chuckle when he's not chaneling what he terms divine inspiration (and it really looks like it, and wasn't that ironic, again, in Jesus's dad's house, a Moslem man making god sing. Man, Ntone and Neo are clever with their venue choices. Music as meeting place for the reinterpretation of space. music as medium, more than message. because you are the message. and i am because you are). It also feels like divine inspiration. So when a fellow kora player and his wife (whom i'd been watching battleto tempt a two year old away from the stage) joined the the maestro and 42 strings and her voice rang out over the congregation in sounds i've never heard, i cried. i haven't ever felt that much love on a stage. and then the bloody lights came on again. sigh. mop mop. escape. was supposed to see the revellators after, but the bar they were playing at said they wouldn't get started till 1am at which time i am already a witch.

Last one was @ Gugu s'thebe in Langa. It doesn't take long to get to Langa. Just past the poo towers. (what else can we call them? for years i thought they were filled with sewage from the stench. And why don't the taggers go and do their deeds there, i wonder? they're so grey and bare they could use some decoration). Udaba are simple and outspoken, quite literally - spoken word, singing, and melodic, rhythmic arrangements i can't quite recall now. It made me dance. Then on came one sweaty mama armed with an electric guitar that's more ornamental than instrumental and her beaded, brilliant virgins (well, one looked like a nypmh, actually, but i'm letting good novels dictate the terms of my perception now). Energetic singing, superfly dancing for a really long time. Nice. Nothembi Mkhwebane. Then The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, all the way from Chicago. 8 brothers, 1 cousin, brass to the max, hip hop overlaps, some cinematic overtures and digging hips. A whole gloop of happy young boys jumped up on stage and joined in, rapping, clapping, yowling. And when they closed their set by singing us nkosi sikelele, again the tears.

Sentimental cynic, aren't i?

PASS, big up for bringing Africa to the fairest Cape. All round, the richest display of musical diveristy I've seen so far in SA (um, yes, that includes you, Oppi). Only please sort out the sound in The Book Centre and St George's Cathedral for next year. I wasn't the only one it spoiled the show for.

You can catch podcasts on the website and check out the archives from last year's show. also videos and the usual stuff we spoilt web surfers expect from our online experience. what did Nikhil call it this morning? the remote control existence.

Do you know the words?

ssss. here. learn.

    Zulu Version

    Nkosi, sikelel' iAfrika,
    Malupnakanyisw' udumo lwayo;
    Yizwa imithandazo yethu
    Nkosi sikelela,
    Nkosi sikelela,

    Nkosi, sikelel' iAfrika,
    Malupnakanyisw' udumo lwayo;
    Yizwa imithandazo yethu
    Nkosi sikelela,
    Nkosi sikelela,

    Woza Moya (woza, woza),
    Woza Moya (woza, woza),
    Woza Moya, Oyingcwele.
    Thina lusapho lwayo.

p.s. ten points for anyone who gives me a decent definition of an afro-ponce...or a funny one. But that's probably too easy, and all you've had to do till now is read....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nice, indeed...

"We used to be called Nice" says their myspace page. What an opener. It's a line that'll cull many a boring intro interview. Beatenberg is was and always will be a three-piece from the Southern Suburbs as sweet as they are sarcastic, as grounded as they are talented.

That word again. Talent. because of an abundance of fair bands in the fairest Cape it's somewhat overused, i'm glad to say. But don't for a minute think that just because there are lots of boys (and one or two girls) making a pretty noise in our pretty city that talent is something to take for granted (take the mountain for granted, that's ok. Just don't throw your forking cigarette onto it half stubbed). First of all it takes blood, sweat and tears to turn talent into something finish and klaar, something consumable, something worthwhile. And second, if we start resting on our laurels before they've even grown, we're fucked. No rest for the wicked, is my motto. Now go be wicked.

So Beatenberg. Once was Nice. New songs. New name. It's something you can afford to do when you're just getting started and you know what you believe in.

I believe in them.

Face the music

Friday, October 2, 2009

new New

From Manson overlays to Danny K, kids are gonna eat New Holland's new album for breakfast every day this season.

photo by the equally talented but often unseen Mark Reitz for
(more rock stars and some other sexy local scenes the way you've probably never seen them at

It started with a very pop single that prompted a little wordplay on my part and a lot radio play on theirs. “For a high speed chase across Exploded Views” I mused, “start with a little Coldplay and bring in The Killers and you've got Freedom, son.”

After that I had this to say

And then the lovely Liny snatched the nicer of my lines for the press release. I wonder, was that becoss iss true or because nobody else had written anything about them lately? Are the journalists really paying attention to local music? This band is going to be big. But where’s the buzz about them? In short, in the piece, I wondered about (wandered about) the role of decent commercial music in the collective psyche and chatted about why I think The Kings Of Neon are set for success. (It’s in the song structure)


then Albert Dupe Lassie from Rhythm leaned over to me last night at the raunchy launch (seems to be happening a lot lately, makes me feel like somebody’s listening) and offered an insight while Katrina or Anna or Natalia spread her legs wide so I could get one last shot. This album he said (I’m paraphrasing) has a bit of everything in it. The whole top forty. Whatever you like.

Which is exactly what we were saying at breakfast (not the royal we, the wild we), a Jackal, a Jill and a Jezebel. Something for everyone. IF you like hit radio. I don’t (and neither do my breakfast companions), but I like this album(and so do they. Or, let’s say it’s two against one, and the band still wins). Of course, I’m no puritan - I was brought up on radio, and still have a somewhat soft spot for its (better) material.

New Holland is only one of two bands this year not to disappoint when it comes to a second album. They’re right, really. You only get one chance. (and Foto, if you disappoint, I’m gonna kick your arty asses and howl like a lost puppy). New Holland don’t blow theirs, they start by grabbing your gullet with the first track. It could have been the title track (if they’d totally sold out to sales), but that would be a tad TOO self referential, and subtlety has always been companion to their confrontational sentiments.

So. a breakdown of Exploded Views.

Freedom! is the first track, and the next hit single. It’s infectious, hopeful, and scattered with minor chords that make it mature despite bopping drums and chopping strings. Can’t get it out of my head, and I’m quite happy for it to stay there. Our anthems are better off inspirational. We’ve had enough darkness this last winter.

I’m not a huge fan of The Son, though I see what they’re doing (or where they’re going – right into indie rockers pockets). The lyrics are lovely and give it all its meaning, but it’s messy. Nail in the foot kind of messy, I guess. But very necessary all the same – it seems from the songs coming out of the rock scene that our parents don’t know we’re over propaganda from the pulpit… I guess (sigh) we’ll just have to tell them over and over again. (doesn’t that sound familiar)

In Silence is Coldplay before fame made him lame. It’s a dirge of disenfranchised youth with a three-note intro that carries through, contains it, and keeps it from becoming too weighted and dark. Like the lyrics say, a great song for sad drives through the abandoned annals of your heart. The kind that goes on repeat while you sob into your scarf. (but wait! It’s spring!)

As a (sort of) consolation, These Are The Best Days is brighter but still stark. It’s is not what you’d expect from the song title (but that’s probably why they put it here, and Freedom! first). It’s a slow, simple song littered with languorous keys and a bit of electronic punctuation. I don’t like the vox effects and electronic overlays. They seem unsagely synthetic, a bit passé and a lot less integrated than they are on the last song on the album. But it wasn’t written for me, anyway. And before some smartass points out that even my broke-backed Bon Iver uses those vox effects, I will secede and say that the two elements I don’t like actually suit each other. (and on the subject of Bon Iver, when is someone going to break his heart again so we can get another awesome album?) If we are a bit behind the times down in sharpest Africa, this song will be right on time. If not, we’ll smile and call it a learning curve.

This(is)home is the next hit. Also an anthem. I’ve never enjoyed spelling so much. The Killers would be proud, methinks. Nice falsetto, too. One of the key songs on the list.

Hiatus is just that - something of a smoke break. Kind of feels like it was played with one hand. But then, that’s what we like about the simple genius of their melodies, isn’t it? I like the celestial echo at the end.

In Hurricane , the voice of New Holland speaks about something other than itself. It’s a song about fucking and finding oneself (or not), replete with the blunt-tongued lyrics we love New Holland for (even if we don’t say poes around our parents) - from town to town she's just passing through shifting gears with her laced up boots. .. she won't take you very far, but what she'll do, she'll fuck you like a hurricane'. Lost souls and sex always make great platforms for contemplation and SA is a hard place if you’re big hearted and horny and it's right here in the middle of the me-ness mess that New Holland have something to offer everyone.

SA is torrid with a horrid history, tasty yet testy with an abiding mystery in the lives and loves of its livers and lovers. We grow up watching our backs, and often seeing our asses while we try to get our rocks off in one way or another. It’s called Freedom, isn’t it? (when the answers aren’t given to you on a razor edged plate.) What New Holland does is speak directly to the people in charge of tomorrow– the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of post pot hate depression, gaily skipping on the skirts of a looming recession armed with nothing but thoughts and fingertips. I like that they’re crude at times, and always honest and often poetic (in a new way, A.D.D. haiku would not be far wrong a phrase to lash the lyrics with). They’re doing something that other SA pop rock bands are perhaps too old (or just too tired and uninspired) to do – seducing the budding passions of its teens in the language that they use. Can anyone say Fuck Yeah? Very Lolita, Teejay, preying on the smallest. ( did you remember to kill Humbert?)

A little less lonely is the surprise winner. Hendrix strings, grunting bass, tempered drums. Totally different to the other tracks. Jaw dropping to see live. Hope there’s more of that on the way…

Thank You, Gautama is Simon & Garfunkel bonking Sufjan Stevens on ecstasy. It’s so good it’s bad. Uncluttered, uncomplicated, acoustic. I wouldn’t be surprised if very young mothers play it to their toddlers.

Something To Believe In is bubble gum for free. Happy tum tum. If it didn’t have the signature progressions, I would puke at all the cute keys. The lyrics give me the finger, anyhow, with lines like ‘I’m not doing it for you’. Also, have you noticed that it’s only the good albums that have ONE song that grates? The Guns did with Cutting Heads. Taxi Violence with The Turn, too. (no, I’m not telling which ones)

Collection of relatively true statements is my favourite. It’s not catchy, but it stays with you. it’s not melancholy, but it makes you reflect. It’s also wise, and winding, and the longest song title on the album. And it’s the one that will be with me longest, I suspect.

But the quintessential song on the album is not the unbruised hits, or the bits in between. It’s the one that tells the New Holland story tritely and rightly and it’s aptly titled No Disguise. The song has it all – their unmistakeable melodies, unmasked vocals, simple fingering, inobtrusive rhythm and cutting, courageous lyrics, (“I tear your head from your heart and your leg from your bone. Should you resist for much longer I might just go coz I won’t let you swallow me whole”). It redresses clichés (a fucking halo) and reminds me (at least lyrically) of A Perfect Circle’s Noose.

21 is the middle child. It doesn’t really stand out, except that it’s naked, and this makes you notice the new in New Holland. On a picky note, there’s a line that sounds like it’s been borrowed from aKING (words and notes), but it’s probably just an oversight. Or is subversion not below these boys? They certainly treat those few notes differently. It opens out into a Nintendo version of soft-boiled electro house which gives it some scope and humour. Like Collection Of relatively True Statements, and No disguise it’s compositionally at ease with itself and it finishes the album off sweetly and suitably. Think about that for a momen - how do you finish off an album like this easily? Not that simple. But perhaps that's their winning formula -they’re always seem to be at ease.

Which brings me to a point about the live performance and the (inter)face of the band - the star, the dark prince. He’s comfortable on stage moving between one thing and the next with an unfettered fluidity that made the audience's sober awkwardness at the launch seem silly. He’s guaranteed to take his top off (perhaps that’s why we didn’t see m/any gigs this winter?) which only tops the sex appeal that swims around the room through the music (“you see that girl there, with the red blouse?” I heard a pair of pumps postulating, “she wants him too”. I didn’t look up to see who was who while i weaved through glistening bodies clutching sweating glasses, but there was more than one woman in that room with a red blouse, that’s for sure! And more than one woman without a blouse, too… (and a true sign of the band’s infectious energy is that they got those bored-looking, bare boobed girls to bop on stage instead of bear their beavers as per usual). A front man with a voice and a body is about the best thing for a band with the musical breadth to humour the party animals and convince consummate music appreciators alike. Like what I’ve said? Go buy it and give yourself something to sing about this summer.

Other kudos

Well produced @ coffeeSTAINEDvinyl (nice to see standards picking up in independent studios),first 1000 discs have album art that uses an insert-not-fold format, which means you can stick them on your wall. (Or swap them with your friends!)

The twitter take

Around the world in a party daze, @NewHollandband move easily from 1 sound to another&never let you go. Chameleons with their clothes off,ja.

Bottom line

Mixing timeless melody and contemporary pop icing, Exploded Views blows up expectations to become the sound of summer 2009. Play it loud and drive fast. (sorry, Wad. You asked for it)

I leave you with a trick question. What would we do if Teejay changed his hair? Put your answers below…