BETTIE SERVEERT: LOG 22 (2003)
1) Wide Eyed Fools; 2) Smack; 3) Have A Heart; 4) Captain Of Maybe; 5) De Diva; 6) Given; 7) Not Coming Down; 8) Cut 'n' Dried; 9) Log 22; 10) White Dogs; 11) Certainlie; 12) The Ocean, My Floor; 13) The Love-In.
After Private Suit had changed their image, but failed to make them superstars, Bettie Serveert took a two-year break — only to return with an album that sounded almost like a retreat to their original image. Almost, because Dollo's law says that you cannot really go back to the exact same state as you were, so Log 22 is still notoriously «artsier» than Palomine, and for Bettie, this means «probably better». Its major problem may be excessive length — a whole hour — but on the other hand, some of its better songs are its longer pieces, where the real juicy pieces of musical meat are to be found in the jam sections, so...
But all in due time. In reality, the band explores quite a few different styles here. The first song is technically one of those stream-of-consciousness rants from Carol that used to be pretty boring, but now they have mastered the art of funky rhythmics and economical, broken-up strings of notes as riffs (somebody must have been on a Television kick recently), which makes the song's verse melody more interesting than the far more generic alt-rock all-out-loud chorus (that one could just as well be produced by the likes of Avril Lavigne). Then the second song is the brief, two-minute-long explosive punch of ʽSmackʼ — distorted guitars, pop hooks, whistling, and a Weezer attitude that we'd never heard from this band so far. Then the third song is... well, looks like a good old draggy B.S. shuffle, but this time, all smothered in horns, in search for some sort of Van Morrison-style epicness. Not particularly inspiring, but interesting.
All of which means that the extended holiday period got them prepped up for «search» mode, and that is at least better than wallow in the original formula, which was boring from the start and would only get more boring when put on endless repeat. The album still sags in the middle, with ʽDe Divaʼ being particularly irritating — going from jangle to distortion and back while Carol delivers a lengthy pretentious rant on herself as "a walking inconsistency". The song wants to be a confessional, but in reality it is self-aggrandizing for no good reason, and I get no extra respect for Carol just from learning that she is supposed to be "De Diva in denial", even presuming that I have guessed correctly what is meant by that (and if I haven't, it's not my fault).
But somewhere around the title track, which manages to transcend generic alt-rock with some clever guitar tricks from Peter, things begin to get better, and the album arguably reaches its peak with the two jam-extended epics — ʽWhite Dogsʼ and ʽThe Ocean, My Floorʼ. The former is one of the band's most obvious tributes to the Velvet Underground (Carol once again sings in her best Lou Reed impression and plays all the right rhythm chords from the Lou Reed songbook), but it honestly sounds like the band is having good clean fun, and Visser plays his heart out on the extended section, totally getting in the groove as if the spirit of Lou himself, or of Robert Quine, at the least, had suddenly descended on him.
As for ʽThe Oceanʼ, its final section is also an extended jam, but carried out from a completely different angle — psychedelic rather than avantgarde, with a complex pattern of overdubs that speeds past you like a multi-colored mushroom field. This is the band's first serious experiment with «trippy» music, and while it is completely unoriginal, it works surprisingly well, showing a level of hi-tech sophistication that the early albums did not even hint at. For about four minutes, the mushrooms explode and the acid flows over our heads like crazy. This could have been a fine coda to the album — but then, in a ʽHer Majestyʼ-style paroxysm of self-deflating, they prefer to round things up with a self-consciously silly retro-disco throwaway that they title ʽThe Love-Inʼ: two and a half minutes of «body muzak» for the nostalgic proto-hipster.
Consequently, the album deserves a thumbs up despite its more than obvious flaws — upon first listen, I hated it for the excessive length and also because it seemed to turn them back in the direction of Dust Bunnies. But it is more like a synthesis of Private Suit with Dust Bunnies and a whole lot of additional approaches. It is not cohesive, it makes relatively little sense and is not at all innovative, but there's also something to be said about general smartness, unpredictability, and professionalism — particularly professionalism, which seems to have properly arrived at the band's disposal on Private Suit and is not really going anywhere, unless they all go on a heroin binge or start touring in support of local politicians.