Beer and Pavement

Going Dutch

Posted in Records by SM on June 30, 2020
My cliched pic of Amsterdam

The mid-90’s, like most of my generation, was when my obsession with indie rock started. One aspect of the scene that attracted me was how certain labels could lead you down rabbit holes to one cool band after another, sort of the way YouTube or Spotify might do for you today. Of course, in those days, information was mostly found in zines or label mailings.

Matador was an especially excellent source for weird or interesting music featuring guitars – so many guitars – and intellectually curious lyrics sung by college dropouts in thrift store t shirts. I remember working in my college’s mail room and getting extra excited when one of Matador’s newsletters would come through. I discovered some pretty memorable bands, many of which I’m still exploring to this day.

One such band was Bettie Serveert. I read that they featured some guitars(!) and a female singer, Carol van Dijk, whom I was convinced was just the Dutch version of Liz Phair. There was some backstory about a famous Dutch tennis player. The name translates to “Bettie Serves” or something. Whatever. They were Dutch and very exotic to me.

So, as I did in those days, I sought a used CD of their excellent 1992 release, Palomine. Standouts like the title track and “Kids Allright” hooked me right away. The band played micro-arena anthems akin to label mates Guided By Voices, but the guitar play stood out and challenged like a Dinosaur Jr. lite. This was soon followed by Lamprey which was full of more anthems, guitars, and van Dijk’s familiar, slacker drawl. I really loved “Totally Freaked Out” from that sophomore release.

My copy of Lamprey

The summer I graduated from college and left for the Pacific Northwest, Dust Bunnies was released. Opener “Geek” still floats around in my memory from time to time. That summer, I was able to catch them opening for Matador alum Teenage Fanclub at the Crocodile in Seattle.

But this isn’t really a post just about Bettie Serveert, forgotten indie legends that they are. I recently discovered that there are a few other bands of interest from the Netherlands, bands who have put some material out in the last few years unbeknownst to me. Where are my Matador newsletters and zines for these bands?

I should have known about Canshaker Pi. They play guitars and write smart-ass lyrics. Somehow, P4k or someone should have posted something that crossed my feed. This blog’s patron saint, Stephen Malkmus, produced their debut and had the following to say about them:

Canshaker Pi will blow the world away with their sound. They are loud, young and not too snotty. They play guitar rock. They don’t sound like anything in the Portland Oregon high school system I can tell u that — confident, frustrated tunes beyond their years. Get in the way of these lads and sparks will fly for sure.

http://www.canshakerpi.nl/

The Canshaker boys’ latest, Okay Decay, is a cool, steady punch to the face. Like Pavement and Malkmus, the lyrics and vocals are aloof and disinterested. The band is on time but acerbic guitar solos interrupt the pop sensibilities just enough to not trick you into thinking they actually like Radiohead more than Pavement. I’m still waiting for my copy of their LP on vinyl as it’s been stuck in customs for about a month.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to keep reading me try to do this band justice. Watch these three songs off Okay and tell me I’m wrong about these Amsterdammers.

Lewsberg is a different sort of band altogether. Hailing from Rotterdam, this foursome sound like the Velvet Underground. I know that’s lazy, but that’s just what they sound like. It’s not as derivative as it sounds, but they sound like the Velvets in a really, really good way. I don’t want to belabor the point, but they do sound like the Velvet Underground. And I’m not the only one to say it. But that’s half-assed to say, something I’m not entirely ashamed of, but this band probably deserves more.

I guess I should attempt to describe what I mean. At the heart of their songs is that driving rhythm, that repetitive groove that could just go and go. Then, over the top are dry, emotionless vocals with lyrics that seem just as distant. However, there’s humanity in the observations or sentiment despite the deadpan delivery. One way they resemble Canshaker Pi is through the lead guitar work that is angry, precise, but certainly won’t ever be confused for anything conventional.

If you want to hear it for yourself, the two singles from their new release, In This House, can be found at their website or the entire album is on their Bandcamp page. In the meantime, check this performance which in the same studio as the Canshaker video above. Again, it’s three perfect songs to digest. The third song is from the new LP (which is also in transit overseas). You can thank me later.

As you can see, there’s more to the Netherlands than weed and windmills. I know it’s got me looking for what I’ve missed. I’ve been to the country twice, separated by about 20 years. The first time, I saw Sleater-Kinney play. The last time, I bought a Great Plains record. So, I haven’t really given the country’s scene a chance. Maybe that has to change.

4 Responses

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  1. Steve said, on July 1, 2020 at 5:09 am

    I haven’t listened to Bettie Serveert in years, must revisit them. Thanks for the two recommendations too. I liked Canshaker Pi in parts, but could have done with a little more light and shade (if that makes sense?). Lewsberg are definitely very Velvets!
    I don’t know if it is age or the changes to media, but it can be hard sometimes to find new things to listen to, or at least stuff worth listening to, so really appreciate these kinds of pointers!

    • SM said, on July 1, 2020 at 7:45 am

      I think there is so much out there that it’s overwhelming. I stumbled upon both of these on Spotify. A playlist ended and these were Spotify recommendations.

      • Steve said, on July 1, 2020 at 10:13 am

        Spotify seems to be my main means of finding new music now (along with Bandcamp to a lesser extent). I do worry that its algorithms send me down certain rabbit holes and not others, so always appreciate recommendations from trusted sources!

  2. […] I recently wrote about my newfound love or maybe rediscovered appreciation for Dutch bands. In terms of being Pavement-esque, look no further than Canshaker Pi. Now, this is a bit unfair as Malkmus produced their first record and has a bit of preference for the band from Holland. Still, it’s worth mentioning them again as they are clearly the Netherlands’ best shot at having their very own Pavement. […]


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