Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bettie Serveert Says It Had To Be You

Bettie Seervet
Bettie Serveert celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band last year at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. They had every reason to celebrate. Not only did the band survive all the stops, starts, shakeups, and false starts, but there was also new material in the works.

The band booked La Chapelle Studios in Belgium last April and recorded a new album with Joppe Molenaar (Voicst, Bettie Serveert). The first two songs were released as a single and B-side this week, a hint of things to come from the Amsterdam-based indie-rock pop band.

The album Oh, Mayhem will mark their tenth full-length release. It will be out in January 2013. It's also another shot for the band to move beyond its cult following as it has never crossed into the mainstream.

Had2byou colors the indie pop stylings of Bettie Serveert.

Canandian-born, Netherlands-raised Carol van Dijk (pronounced van Dyk) is something of a marvel. Her voice is timeless, seemingly unaffected by singing and touring for the last 25 years. If anything, she sounds younger.

Some of the it is in the material, at least on the frontside. Had2byou has as much pop polish as Souls Travel did on Pharmacy Of Love, which gives van Dijk a near perky crispness that she never really had in the 1990s when the band produced its best work.

Then again, it is possible that Had2byou could be the pop exception to the band's otherwise indie rock leanings (much like Souls Train was on Pharmacy Of Love). That would fit with the Bettie Serveert most fans know. Even with the optimistic instrumentation on songs like Had2byou, the lyrics have bite.

"And though I know it doesn't matter, every time my heart was shattered and broken in two, it had to be you," van Dijk sings with a brilliantly upbeat sense of sarcasm and irony. Right, it's not a love song. Had2byou only sounds like one.

The video was put up shortly after the initial release but in advance of the U.S. release. It features some wacky, mildly creepy stop motion by Tinca Veerman and Hannelore De Decker. The band obviously had some fun making the film, becoming the canvas for an odd assortment of stuff to be dropped and drawn on their faces. What it has to do with the song is anybody's guess.

What is more notable is that van Dijk seems to be channeling some Liz Phair influenced riffs and vocals into the music. While van Dijk has been known to cover a song or two from the brilliant songwriter, this is the first time a few recognizable stylings have creeped its way into Bettie Serveert's work.

The B-side is a cool cover, straight out of Amsterdam. 

The B-side is a cover of the legendary song Situations - Complications from the 1998 album No Rest For The Alonely (No Rest For The Lonely in the U.K.) by the indie rock trio Caesar. Given the band took a permanent hiatus in 2008 (officially in 2010), it's great to see the song revived.

Bettie Serveert brings a heavier bass line to song, along with van Dijk's smokier vocals. She delivers it so convincingly that anyone unfamiliar with the tune will think it was written for her. Much like Had2byou, some Phair-esque stylings bleed into the chorus.

Incidentally, the reason the B-side sounds so good is that Bettie Serveert added the cover to their live performance repertoire for the better part of a year. As the song has became an audience favorite, it only made sense for them to record it in the studio. The cryptic lyrics really shine in this rendition.

"Life gets so much easier when you're stoned. Yeah, life gets so much easier on your own," sings van Dijk. "It's hard to get down this medicine we call time. There's a lot of it and just me who's on the line."

Had2byou By Bettie Serveert Takes 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is a definite contrast between the single and B-side, which is pretty much lock step Bettie Serveert sometimes erratic compilations. The B-side on its own deserves something in the high 8s, cover or not.

But none of that really matters. What matters most is that van Dijk, Peter Visser, and Herman Bunskoeke have crafted a promising introduction to the upcoming album. Expect plenty of sideways glances and virile tension with plenty of muscle pop guitar work.

Had2byou and Situations - Complications are available on iTunes. You can also find the single on Amazon. The band has only released their touring schedule for Europe to date, with a couple shows in December and then a heavy January. For concert listings, check them out on Facebook.
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