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
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
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.