Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bettie Serveert Plays Up Oh Mayhem!

A few months ago, I hit on the single Had2byou by Bettie Serveert and never had a chance to circle back on an album that is still fresh in our playlist. Oh Mayhem! is distinctly Bettie Serveert, with Canandian-born, Netherlands-raised Carol van Dijk (pronounced van Dyk) sounding just as fresh as she did 20 years ago.

Yes, the band has evolved over the last two decades but that doesn't mean they ever stopped producing incessantly addictive songs that often straddle indie pop and alternative rock. Oh Mayhem!, the album they cut at La Chapelle Studios in Belgium, showcases every bit of that talent,  much better than the single did as a standalone. It's often fuller, but plenty of it cuts away the cobwebs in unexpected bursts.

Oh Mayhem! is a carnival of well-composed and unforgettably varied indie rock/pop tunes. 

Taking in the album after the single was somewhat of a pleasant if not expected surprise. Had2byou was the overtly pop exception to the band's otherwise indie rock leanings much like Souls Train was on Pharmacy of Love. The rest of the album takes a decidedly chaotic tone, much like the title implies.

The unrestrained nature of the 10-track album weaves in and out of several genres, sparking up discussion that suggests the best of Bettie Serveert is still largely in front of them instead of behind them. It's the depth of its diversity that makes the album a welcomed addition.

Starting with the first track, Shake-Her, Oh Mayhem! dashes all anticipation of a smoother sound for something less ordinary. The song immediately strikes at the sonic blueprint the band laid down years ago — van Dijk powering up her vocals against Peter Vissar's feverish punk and strut guitar.

The title track, Mayhem, ebbs and flows between roughly staccato punk and smoothly melodic bluesy pop. It's not something someone would think could be possible, until dialing it down from these Dutch rockers. The song itself is about growing up or, more exactly, not growing up, even if we pretend to.

"You sleep with lights on though the monsters have gone. Your mom doesn't know and you sure don't show, but you can't be sure if they'll come back again."

The lyrics sound darker on their own than coached between the complementary but somehow competing voice of van Dijk, Vissar's guitar, Herman Bunskoeke's bass, and Joppe Molenaar's guitar. The darker moments appear much lower on the track listing.

Tuf Skin is an exceptional fiery end to a relationship that left at least one person holding themselves back after growing complacent. Unsettled to let herself drift away, van Dijk vows to pull herself up and get tough skin back, no matter how much damage has been done.

The other dark track is a smoky, surprisingly sultry song with a blue-infused vibe. Although called Monogamous, it's about the exact opposite. And what makes it so incredibly interesting is that you really can't tell if it's a coercion or condemnation. Not everybody likes it because the tempo is so vastly different than everything before and after it, but the near a cappella track is wildly haunting anyway.

Beyond these standouts, there is still plenty more to discover. Sad Dog has an impossible to pass up groove. D.I.Y. is as inspirational as much as it feels like how the band defines itself. And Losertrack touches on how impossible it can be to take a chance on some people.

All of it, the entire album, has something else that has always stood out about Bettie Seervert. Every section of the band always presents so crisp that you can pull it out of the song and focus on nothing else. While many bands muddle themselves, there is always something more to discover from the band based on nothing more than how you listen to it.

Oh Mayhem! by Bettie Serveert rocks 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There are plenty of people that like to say Bettie Serveert is so consistent that it is hard for any one album to stand out. That's not entirely true. There is a discernible fullness that has evolved along with increasingly visceral lyrics. Oh Mayhem! is just as sharp as anything else they have put out.

You can find Oh Mayhem! by Bettie Serveert on Amazon or download the album from iTunes. The album has also been released and is is available at Barnes & Noble. The band is currently set to perform several shows all over the Netherlands. You can follow Bettie Serveert on Facebook to keep up on their schedule.
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