February 5, 2013

Review: Bettie Serveert | Oh, Mayem!

Some bands write half of their album in, or just on their way into, the studio and it really sounds like it: half-assed ideas, dumb lyrics, and generally rushed recordings that just don't work.

Other bands - experienced and confident bands like Bettie Serveert- revel in the pressure. Using the energy fueled by expensive studio hours ticking away to create the direct songs they've been hardwired to deliver. The songs don't need editing, because they're not loaded up with anything extraneous.

So it is with their new album, Oh, Mayhem!, out today in the USA on Second Motion Records. Apparently still propelled by 2011's reinvigorated Pharmacy of Love, they've banged out a quick (under 35 minutes!), dirty, and worthy follow-up. Much of the album was reportedly recorded live in the studio and written under the gun and Bettie Serveert do sound like a well-oiled rock machine here. From the driving, urgent opener "Shake Her," the chaotic "Tuf Skin," and culminating in the Stoogefied "Receiver,"Oh, Mayhem! is packed with rockers (the latter of which was wisely re-appropriated to anchor the new album from a 2011 side project that singer/guitarist Carol van Dyk and lead guitarist Peter Visser led called Me and Stupid, which you can download for free over here). To the album's benefit, they continue to hold at bay the experimental tendencies that caused them to stray a bit from their path in the 00's.

It's hard not to give a lot of credit for this to drummer Joppe Molenaar's continued presence behind the kit. His playing on the title track, in particular, making the case that he's a huge part of this act in the band's career. He's a caffeinated powerhouse who bashes when warranted but knows just when to hang back. Guitarist Peter Visser is assertive as ever, launching power chords and dealing simple hooks, like on "LoserTrack," with equal effectiveness. Carol van Dyke's voice is more commanding than ever, the sweet, shy charm of Palomine now augmented by conviction and nerve - all at once on tracks like the lead single "Had2Byou." And her guitar work with Visser may not be as audacious as the interplay between Television's Verlaine and Llyod or Big Dipper's Waleik and Goffrier, but there's something comforting about the blanket of warm, strummy jangle they lean back on from time to time.

All of those parts come together on the soaring set closer "D.I.Y.," which answers question asked back on the title track - "can you peel off the past?" by showing how vital Bettie Serveert still are.

- Michael Piantigini

Previously: Review: Bettie Serveert | Pharmacy Of Love

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More fun video: Bettie Serveert perform Palomine in its entirety.

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