Schoolkids Records – 22nd April 2017
As I kid – and especially as a teenager – I thought I knew everything, and that anyone over 30 was ancient, a has-been and that it was impossible to be cool past a certain age. But even then, I envied some of the older people I knew – largely through music and record shops – who had seen punk and new wave bands I’d got into in their heyday (or at all).
Hindsight is indeed wonderful, especially when viewed from a vantage of being older and wiser – and while the early 90s felt exciting for someone who was properly old enough to go to gigs on their own on turning 18 in 1993, it’s only really now that it’s possible to really reflect on the fact that there are people in their teens and 20s who will forever curse having been born too late to experience the grunge explosion first hand.
Bettie Seveert aren’t a grunge band, but it was on going to see Dinosaur Jr – who, despite having been around a lot longer, really got to ride the crest of the grunge wave – at Nottingham’s Rock City touring ‘Where You Been’ in February 1993, that I first encountered Come, and (then) Melody Maker darlings Bettie Serveert.
24 years on from that gig and a full quarter century from their debut album Palomine, and the Amsterdam-based act deliver their tenth album: it’s a respectable and steady work-rate by any standards, and what matters is that ‘Damaged Good’ is a great alternative rock album, which displays a neat pop sensibility without in any way being cheesy, corny or lightweight. Released in Benelux last September, it’s now getting a full global release, and this is definitely a good thing. While they may not have received the press backing, or replicated the success of Palomine commercially, creatively, Bettie Serveert have still got it.
Opener ‘B-Cuz’ brings the bounce, not to mention a blend of 60s pop and punk energy and makes for a neat entry to the album. ‘Brother (in Loins)’ brings a darker, post-punk atmosphere and twists in element of 90s alt-rock to a song that has the disco pop groove stylings of Blondie. Elsewhere, there’s a purity and innocence about the vintage indie stylings of ‘Whatever Happens’, and the shuffling beat and darker undercurrents which bubble beneath the buoyant bass of ‘Unsane’ calls to mind ‘Gran Turismo’ era Cardigans. Again, this is a good thing.
In fact, there are no bad things about Damaged Good. The eight-minute ‘Digital Sin Nr 7’ finds the band indulging their more experimental and considerably noisier side, but holding it all together with a tense bass groove. ‘Love Sick’ with Peter de Bos is a driving grunge pop belter: not a song that sounds like it belongs in the 90s so much as a timeless hook-filled cracker of a tune. And herein lies the key to what makes Damaged Good not just good, but great: it’s an album of songs, and while varied in style, the quality is both high and consistent. Songs matter, and there isn’t a dud to be found here.