BETTIE SERVEERT: LAMPREY (1995)
1) Keepsake; 2) Ray Ray Rain; 3) D. Feathers; 4) Re-Feel-It; 5) 21 Days; 6) Cybor *D; 7) Tell Me, Sad; 8) Crutches; 9) Something So Wild; 10) Totally Freaked Out; 11) Silent Spring.
Now this album, I am afraid to say, does not seem to have stood even a short time test at all. Positively viewed upon release and still occasionally riding on the coattails of that first reputational burst, now it seems like a prime example of «generic mid-1990s indie» — lots of bravura, heroic posturing, volume, distortion, and angry, self-righteous vocals, behind all of which there is no musical substance whatsoever. Reusing, perusing, and abusing musical baggage accumulated by their betters without putting their own distinct spin on it — Lamprey is the sort of album which you'd imagine a band like Sonic Youth capable of writing and recording on-the-spot, except they'd be too embarrassed to release it (and, for that matter, there is very little in this world that Sonic Youth would be embarrassed of releasing).
What is so much worse, through all of it Carol van Dijk wails, rants, and splutters as if she really had something to say, but all she really says is the same old "I can't explain", only dressed up in pseudo-metaphors and allegories whose sound is clumsy and whose meaning is zilch. Example: "Go down inside of me / There's still a part that sees the first time / You've opened up my eyes / Completely self absorbed / What are we waiting for / Ferociously, you never know just why" (ʽ21 Daysʼ). Feel free to correct me, but I happen to think that these are some really bad lyrics out there, don't you think? And there's more... so much more...
Unfortunately, this time around even Peter Visser does not help out, because way too much space is given over to verbal raving and ranting; most of the time he is just weaving his jangle or minimalistic lead lines in and out of Carol's rhythm playing. There is an inspired guitar break at the end of ʽD. Feathersʼ, a song for which they also drag out the Mellotron (or, at least, something that imitates the Mellotron), so that its coda becomes sonically similar to early King Crimson, and a few other tracks as well feature maniacal leads from the man, so that the process of listening eventually becomes the process of impatiently waiting around for whether or not Visser is given a chance to solo at the end — offering a chance at redemption — or not — condemning the song to immediate death at the stake.
ʽRay Ray Rainʼ is the only track here that indirectly points to a brighter and snappier future for the band: poorly produced (the vocals are muffled and strangled in between the guitar parts), but upbeat, poppy, and shiny in a cool mid-1960s fashion, as if somebody took a whiff on inspiration from Revolver in addition to all the Velvet Undergroundisms. I am also somewhat partial to the album closer ʽSilent Springʼ which is at least different — after a long string of those crunchy, but meaningless rock grinders its acoustic guitars and echoey vocals are a nice change of pace. It is also the only track on the album on which Carol actually sings in a traditional understanding of the term, and does so admirably well.
Everything else is pretty much awful, with the major culprits being ʽCrutchesʼ (the "let me down, let it bubble all around me!" part could succeed if the rest of the song actually worked towards that anguished emotional release, but it doesn't, and the protagonist just comes across as a phony, capricious whiner) and the interminable ʽTell Me, Sadʼ, which takes its cue from a not-so-obscure Beatles reference ("rocking horse people out on a limb..."), never really figures out what to do with it, and burdens our conscience with some sort of problem ("tell me, Sad, what's wrong with that...") whose very existence is never confirmed — five minutes of almost literally trying to produce a meaningful something out of virtually nothing.
A more detailed scrutiny might be able to extract bits and pieces — a decent bassline here and there, a minor vocal hook somewhere on the periphery — but on the whole, Lamprey is just a waste of talent, and I have a really hard time thinking why anybody over 18 years old would ever want to listen to it once more. Then again, judging by the seemingly fading memories of it, nobody really does these days. Thumbs down.