Plays “Venus in Furs”
Just as some people have a weak spot for thigh-high gogo boots (with portholes), I have something for guitar-pop bands from the Low Countries. A fascination with footwear might be inexplicable — at least I know what it is about these Dutch and Belgian bands I like. Despite a willingness to stick to traditional guitar/bass/drum forms, the bands seem to have a unique melodic character that sets them apart from British and American counterparts, using these tried-and-true formulas as a basis for experimentation, rather than simply parroting what’s cruising up the charts.
On Plays Venus in Furs, Bettie Serveert goes out on an additional limb by tipping over one of the sacredest of cows, the Velvet Underground. Fortunately, the band succeeds in the difficult task of paying tribute to the band without ending up as either a carbon copy or a washed-out portrait. Recorded as a live set in Amsterdam, the band opts out of some obvious choices like “Sweet Jane” and “Heroin” and concentrates on interpreting a well-rounded selection of defining VU tracks. The album opens with “Beginning to See the Light” and closes with a sweet rendition of “Afterhours,” which truly highlights Carol van Dijk’s lustrous and full voice, which contrasts nicely against Moe Tucker’s original vocals. In between, noisy visits are paid to “European Son,” “Black Angel’s Death Song,” “What Goes On,” “Sunday Morning” and a handful of other classic tracks.
It takes certain daring to attempt something like this, and (sadly) few bands could pull it off as elegantly as Bettie Serveert has on this album. Recommended for fans of Benelux music and the Velvet Underground alike. Brinkman Records USA, P.O. Box 441837, Somerville, MA 02144