Thursday, March 4th, 2010
Review of Bettie Serveert’s Pharmacy Of Love
Phil HarderDid anyone see this coming? I certainly didn’t. This question, of course, is only relevant to those of a certain age/era for whom the name, “Bettie Serveert” still means something. To everyone else: get off my lawn.
Aside for the unfamiliar: the Betties were the Netherlands’ finest rock export since Golden Earring and a staple of ’90s college rock with three albums on Matador full of crunchy guitar pop and Carol Van Dijk’s expressive vocals. Entering the 21st century, they explored side projects and released records less frequently and on a variety of labels. The best of them was 2000’s Private Suit, which seemed to usher in a new era of maturity and elegance for the band – different, sure, but excellent. Subsequent releases were more scattershot affairs, however, with their share of high points but lacking in cohesion and direction. It was a good run, but fans – this one, at least – figured their best was behind them.
At least until their new album Pharmacy Of Love, due out in North American March 23, arrived in my mailbox and promptly knocked me on my ass. Opening track “Deny All” is not the work of a band lacking purpose or phoning it in. Fast, loud and focused, it’s the sound of a band re-energized and rocking harder than they even did in their youth and sets the tone for the rest of the record. And there’s no over-compensation here, no sense they’re trying to prove they can still keep up with the kids – they simply are, and easily. Best of all, as thrilling as Pharmacy is on a visceral level, all of the best Bettie signature moves are in place – Peter Visser’s guitar lines weave, lurch and bite while Van Dijk’s voice has arguably never sounded better nor her melodies more memorable. I didn’t realize how much I missed Bettie Serveert until I got them back.
Pharmacy Of Love was released in January in Europe and is due out on March 23, with rumours of live North American dates to follow. They haven’t been back here since 2005 and that show at The Horseshoe was all kinds of awesome, even in support of a weaker record. Pharmacy Of Love live? Yes, please.
DCist and Encore have interviews with Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, whose new record The Big To-Do hits next week. “Zip City” showed up on shuffle on my iPhone the other day, and my anticipation for this record increased exponentially. They have two dates at Lee’s Palace on April 6 and 7.
Pitchfork has details on the new album from Band Of Horses, entitled Infinite Arms and due out May 18. That gives you a month to learn all the songs by heart before they play the Toronto Islands Concert on June 19.
Venice Is Sinking have announced details about their next album – Sand & Lines: The Georgia Theatre Sessions is due out June 15 and will showcase the band live, off the floor, with just two mics and no overdubs.
Also all over Canadian Musicfest are The Uglysuit, with two official festival shows next week – an acoustic gig at the Library Bar in the Royal York on March 11 and a fully plugged-in set at Lee’s Palace on March 12. The Brock Press has an interview with the Oklahoman collective.
OK Go will be at the Mod Club on April 23, hoping that their fans find them as entertaining live as they do on YouTube.
And know what I want for my birthday? High Violet. Yes. Just wait.