[28 January 2007]
Bettie Serveert has been making pretty lovely pop music for years. Staying under the radar of both the mainstream and indie circles, they have toured extensively and released several very good records, all with little recognition. Bare Stripped Naked, their new “unplugged” CD/DVD package, probably will not push them to the stardom they probably deserve. But for the band’s fans, it is a nice package that shows off a different side of the band. For listeners new to the band, it is a nice acoustic record for the days when you really want to listen to nice acoustic music.
Lead singer Carol Van Dyk’s vocals have always been the most distinctive trait of the band. With a slight resemblance to Chrissie Hynde, her voice is quiet and airy, cutting through and around the music. In the stripped down atmosphere of this acoustic album her voice takes center stage. And it does not disappoint.
The opening song is “Roadmovies”, a lush track with soft guitars and Dyk thoughtfully singing, “I guess that’s what they call ‘in solitude’ / When there’s no one here to tell the answers to.” “The Storm” is another highlight. The music rises in crescendo while Dyk’s vocals strain to keep up, plaintively wondering, “How do you deal with all this hurt? / You fail to see hypocrisies.” “Painted Word” shows the band, and Dyk, at their most playful. The music jumps and starts, Dyk sings “Reminiscing every day / How do I always seem to get my way / You better tell me” with handclaps in the background, and everything feels so fun. The album ends with “Certainlie”. The song’s crunching guitars and Dyk’s urgent vocals is a change from the gentleness of the rest of the album.
The accompanying DVD contains a lovely little concert by the band. The between-song banter seems to be in Dutch, which is either endearing or frustrating depending on how much you really want to hear the banter. Shot in a haze with tight camera work, the footage focuses on the band and creates an intimate atmosphere. Highlights include a rendition of “Tom Boy” with a banjo highly prominent, a sweet cover of “Stephanie Says” by the Velvet Underground, and the band’s noted rendition of “Lover I Don’t Have to Love”, heard on The OC . Whereas the original Bright Eyes version is urgent and intense, Bettie Serveert’s feels more plaintive, giving the song a bittersweet feel. The DVD also includes some nice candid footage of the band, which ought to delight the hardcore fans.
Bettie Serveert is going to, presumably, release more records and give many more concerts. And presumably they will do this in continued obscurity, with a small contingent of dedicated fans and some casual listeners in tow. Bare Stripped Naked is nothing earth-shattering. Rather it is just another good album of good songs from a good band that any music listener can find pleasure in.