OK, i wouldn't talk about pudding and Van Coke Kartel in the same sentence, but Peach van Pletzen's fine touch on their latest offering is testimony to the fact that the proof of an album's prowess is in its producer as much as it is in its artists. And i'm not sure i'd put 'artist' and Van Coke Kartel in the same sentence, either, but they certainly have grown creatively with "Skop, Skiet en Donner".
I am not a VCK fan. Not in real life, not on Facebook. But i always have space in me for becoming one, of anyone, at any time. In fact, i secretly hope for turnarounds that make lovers of friends and friends of foes. Not that I'd call Frannie a foe (i'm slightly more self-controlled when it comes to badmouthing good people in public than he has been in the past) but there's been a fair bit of mention by the band's friends and foes about the album.
"Skop, Skiet en Donner" is a piece of alright, according to the underground (which is me and my cousins, and you and your cousins). The frequency with which I've heard it from people who are neither deaf nor dumb (in the lay sense) made me curious where i'm normally cynical and bored.
And when i loosed it on my ears, expecting the usual excess energy, familiar, strained vocals and a gamut of garrulous guitar, what i got was a taste of something undeniably homegrown and possibly a bit more grown up than their previous releases. (or maybe it's just the mixing.)
"Skop, Skiet en Donner" is tempered despite the album title's claims. The songs are less showy, more honest, or more naked, maybe. And... quieter! There are ballads there, by gawd. Ballads and moments of beauty. Skadu's Teen Die Muur is nice. Voor Ons Stof Word is quotable. But Cocaine is kak.
I don't get it - are they on something? They were onTO something, choosing a choice producer, opening themselves to a slightly different side of the Kartel than we know and expect, and then they go and pale it with English covers. What's with that? The thin English lyrics lack the lustre and conviction that anyone singing in Afrikaans can employ and enjoy effortlessly, even if they can't really sing. (and Frannie, it turns out, really can sing!) The half-hearted renditions of hits well past their Best Before date do their bit to dilute the signiture sound that Frannie and Wynand are making a brand of. The tribute songs will possibly get them playlisted by the dictators of overplayed singles, 5FM (if their support of the artist formerly known as Saron Gas is anything to go by) and I'll be glad of that, if but for the break it gives me from the appallingly obvious Lochenville and the disproportionately popular GaGa girl. I'm not comparing Afrikaans rock to copycat electro hip hop or to global dance the way Rebel Records seem to with their schizophrenic selection of incompatible sounds on the new South African Rock, Pop & Dance compilation Volume One; but i am saying that VCK may have notched up a bit more crowd appeal amongst less inebriated, more commercially inclined listeners.
Good for them. and for me. Now i can stay for their whole set.