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.

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.

On Sentimentality

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Life by SM on February 10, 2012

Music and images elicit a certain amount of sentimentality in its audience. In fact, producers of such art depend on that sentimentality to sell their art. It’s not a deceptive practice. Musicians have to sell records to make a living and continue doing what they love.

There’s also a more authentic aspect for manufacturing some sentimentality. Artists want to make a connection through common sentiments. If I reflect on my childhood or my child’s in a song or video and it connects with you, we create a community of sorts through this kinship. Yes, there’s profit to be made, but the human connections solidified are what’s really valuable.

Some roll their eyes at sentimentality, especially when something’s for sale. Take that Deschutes video I shared a while back

Some beer enthusiasts were upset. They felt duped. Someone was accessing their sentimentality to sell some beer. They don’t like that and feel craft beer should be above such nonsense. However, it’s naive to think this way. Man, everything’s for sale, including your sentimentality. If you’re aware of it, who cares? Why not enjoy the moment?

I get a certain bit of sentimentality from beer and music. I’m okay with it being used to sell me more beer and records because I’m aware of what’s going on. I can separate something that makes me feel sentimental from what you’re selling. However, if I too feel sentimental about your product, I’m more than willing to shed reason to satisfy that need for sentiment.

Take the video at the top of this post for example. I have all kinds of feelings for this one piece. First, the song is by Eric Bachman of Archers of Loaf fame and now Crooked Fingers. Archers of Loaf captured the angst and blue-collar anger of my youth, feelings that still resonate with me. Crooked Fingers came around at some interesting transitions in my life. Darker sides of my mindset heard Bachman’s drunken laments and it connected. Ever since, the more mature material Bachman has released speaks to me as I grow older and accumulate adult responsibilities. His last album was completely overlooked by me and possibly should have made my final ten of 2011. For this, I feel a little guilty.

The video and song together really connects to sentimentality of my current state. Watching a young girl grow, discover her family history, and suddenly realize she’s grown really makes me think about my own daughter. Additionally, friends have recently asked me what fatherhood is like. for three years for her life, I’ve almost never had to answer this question. However, it’s come up a lot lately. I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve had to say about it.

This leads to a moment I had today. My mom called me this morning to tell me that my grandfather died earlier in the day, the day between my wife’s birthday (yesterday) and mine (tomorrow). She told me how she was able to see him before he passed. He wanted to talk, but the oxygen mask he was wearing wouldn’t permit his words to heard. She said by the time my aunt arrived later in the evening, he was virtually in a coma.

I thought about that moment, the moment my grandfather’s daughters had to see him in the most vulnerable of states. I thought about the last moments he had to look into his daughter’s eyes. I imagined the moment I will have to do the same.

This caused me to shutter a bit, but it resonated. Yep. I got all of that from one little music video.

I write about my interests because I feel connections to people through these things. I remember sharing a Goose Island Christmas ale with my grandfather the last time we celebrated the holiday together. My sister played some Bettie Serveert on Facebook today to help her cope with the sadness. I’ve listened to nothing but Bettie Serveert all day, remembering the summer I spent in Seattle when I caught them live.

Beer and music are there throughout our lives when the good and bad happen. Sure, there are other things, but these are the things to which I connect. So, I feel as though we should insure that these moments are connected to the best in both. I want the most meaningful music and the highest quality beer to connect to the times I share with loved ones.

Does this make me more susceptible to advertisers playing the sentimentality card? Sure, but why not enjoy feeling that connection now and and again? Honestly, I’d rather play a record for sentimental reasons than because Pitchfork told me to. I’d rather remember the time I had a heart-to-heart with a friend over a good craft beer than fully sober and without a taste in my mouth that will take me back to that one moment in time…

Now ‘m rambling a bit. Appeal to my sentimentality. I’m cool with it. I like feeling and remembering, things humans do.