Bettie Serveert

Bare Stripped Naked

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Bettie Serveert has been at it for a long time. Since the release of 1992's indie rock classic Palomine, the band's career has been a series of ups and downs, missed opportunities, fading fortunes, misguided reviews, and strong comebacks. Basically, it's been the story of any indie rock band that never gave up in the face of adversity and kept their hearts and souls in the music as the chance to make it "big" becomes increasingly remote. You have to admire a band like that, especially one that can still deliver an album as good as 2006's Bare Stripped Naked after 15 years plus of struggling. As the title indicates, most of the record features spare instrumentation and restrained performances as the band settles into a mood of introspection and heartache. Peter Visser's guitar work is heroic as he fills the tunes with achingly melodic lines and dramatic effects-laden smears of sound, but as ever, Carol van Dyk is the focal point of the band. Her vocals are as sweet and intimate as usual, but time has given her voice a ragged vibrato that she uses to stunning effect on the more heartfelt ballads like "Roadmovies" and "The Rope." The album's highlights are new versions of an old classic (an atmospheric take on "Brain-Tag," one of the best songs on Palomine) and a more recent gem (a ripping, Neil Young-inspired version of Log 22's "Certainlie"), but the group's new songs display the usual level of high-quality songwriting and performance. Only the cabaret-style ballad "Painted Word" is a letdown (too quirky by half); the rest of the record features devastatingly heartbroken ballads (especially "2nd Time" and "What They Call Love") and what could have been a huge hit in 1992, "Hell = Other People." Sporting classic indie rock chord progressions, an instantly familiar melody, and van Dyk's most charming vocal ever, the song appears twice on the album and you might find yourself wishing it appeared more because it's just that good! Bettie Serveert is a survivor and this record is a rousing and heroic reminder of what a great band they were and continue to be.

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