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(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)

  Log 22  
  Bettie Serveert  
  Hidden Agenda  
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One of the best covers Iíve ever heard is of Bob Dylanís Iíll Keep it With Mine by Dutch band Bettie Serveert. Released on the sound track to I Shot Andy Warhol in 1996, that cover was the culmination of an impressive array of early 90s releases by this band. Back then, Bettie Serveert had a crunchy (yet somewhat jangly) indie rock sound that was highlighted by lead singer Carol van Dykís incredibly pure and innocent-sounding voice.

After 1997ís Dust Bunnies Bettie Serveert more or less fell off the American musical map (although they did release an album of Velvet Underground covers at one point). Iím not sure why or how this happened. It may have been that they were released by their American label; I also seem to think that the band decided to take a little hiatus. Anyway, Log 22 is Bettie Serveertís first release in a long time, and Iíll confess that I was looking forward to hearing it.

However, having now heard it, I have to say that Iím not too impressed. Maybe Iím remembering too much of the old stuff, or maybe Iím only recalling the good off those long ago albums. But it seems like nothing on Log 22 is as good as the better tracks on Palomine or Lamprey. Instead of sounding slightly edgy, Carol van Dykís vocals are more languid, as if sheís been influenced by one too many trip-hop records. This is especially noticeable on the first song, Wide Eyed Fools, which wouldnít seem out of place on a +/- album Furthermore, it seems like thereís a noticeable discontinuity between the dreamy quality of the vocals and the crispness of the drumming, which at time overwhelms the overall sound. For instance, on Given, the drums are in the forefront, but they donít exactly mesh with the echoey guitars or the slightly cheesy keyboards.

In and of itself, these issues might not be enough for me to write off this album. However, there are two other fundamental problems with Log 22. First off, it seems like, as a band, Bettie Serveert had turned away from the rock and towards a more singer/songwriter ballad-y approach towards music. For instance, when Iím listening to songs like Captain of Maybe or Cut ĎN Dried, Iíll think that the song is O.K., but it could be an indie-rock version of the power ballad with swelling guitars and overly earnest vocals. In fact, those songs could almost be covered by one of the ever-so-popular female vocalists you can hear on American mainstream radio. As thatís not a type of music I tend to get into it, this tendency in Bettie Serveert doesnít work for me.

Finally, my last complaint about the album is the overt Velvet Underground influence that predominates in certain other songs. This is especially evident in the overly-long White Dogs, which clocks in at a whopping 8:20. It starts off as one of those slower semi-acoustic tunes before slipping into some crunchy pseudo-garage rock complete with spoken word vocals a la Lou Reed. Subsequently it then moves into a nice round of feedback before ending. In other words, if you take the structure of the VU song Heroin and then combine the rhythm of Waiting for the Man with the catchiness of Sweet Jane, then you pretty much have this song. Normally, paying homage to influences doesnít bother me that much; however in this case it seems like a conscious rip-off. Furthermore, I want to grab this band by their metaphorical shoulders and reiterate PostLibyanís point: there were albums released after White Light/White Heat, and some of them are even good!

So what happens when a band you like branches out into genres and homages you donít care for? Itís an almost impossible quandary. On one hand, I feel like Iím not being fair by rating it so low Ė I suspect thereís a better album in Log 22 thatís just waiting to get out. However, on the other hand, the more experimental stuff (for them) such as the occasional disco beat, or the acoustic numbers seem somewhat scatter-shot and it just doesnít resonate with me. And in the end, I found this a disappointing album overall.

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