Its all girl stuff.
Three bloody drummers! The sleeve notes said they all play together! I want to hear them drumming all at once. But I find that, whilst listening to this album, I can't really discern whether they are all playing at once, or whether one drummer's playing the cymbals, the second is drumming, and the third is making tea, or whatever. I was hoping for a Phallus Dei sound by AmonDuul 2 but what I got was nice measured song writing with the accent on Girl. Spacey, dreamy singing, "shituashion" lyrics; (let me explain; you, the Girl are the heroine in a tricky shituashion, and you have to work out the way in which you can successfully overcome the problems you face. With the problems solved, you, the Girl can then pass on your knowledge, preferably through a song, to other Girls who face similar shituashions). Its all girl stuff. Independent Girl, Girl in love, Girl with money to burn, Girl telling boy to sling his hook, Girl who overrides the difficulties of modern life WITH A SENSE OF HUMOUR. That stuff. "Don't touch that Dial" is a case in point, almost whimsically C86 in tone, but with a new century gloss varnish; treading the same ground as the Primitives, or Transvision Vamp. And Girly lyrics.
The other thing I noticed about this disc is the preponderance (oh so common with Dutch bands) to dip a toe into the sea of "experimental" sounds, only to pull it quickly out again when things start to get promising. "Greyhound Song" is a case in point. There is a weird bit at the beginning of the song that promises much, but isn't allowed to develop much further as the "traditional song structure" takes over about 8 bars in. It's a shame. Still, it is an engagingly kooky song, with guitars sliding around. "Versace" does the same; quirky introduction, glossy production, nice enough melody, great singing (note to self; Carol Van Dyck has a fantastic voice), but on the whole not restless enough. It's content to cruise along, automatic windows firmly up, airco on, hermetically sealed from the outside world.And I hope to hell this song is not about buying Versace products, or a comment on materialism, or anything remotely connected to retail wish fulfillment, but I suspect it is.
Luckily the next songs are much, much better, "1 Off Deal" is a short poppy strummy stroll in the sun. "Hands Off" is the best song on the album eschewing all the clever stuff and getting down to basics. Van Dyck's voice is great here, warm, funny and direct. There's a great Altered Images/Orange Juice guitar descend running through the track like quicksilver. Why can't Bettie Serveert just do more of that?
You may, after reading this review, have guessed that I'm on the fence over my thoughts on "Attagirl". I can appreciate the merits of an album like this, especially in the Dutch market. It's good, filled with strong songs, great singing, etc etc; but there are some bloody annoying things too. Take some of the lyrics. They are somewhat 'precocious' shall we say. "Attagirl" is littered with Rock n' Rollisms that make no sense, as if they've been badly translated from Finnish. I mean, "you're just some kinda nervous punk" What???
Still, maybe I'm just being crotchety, or maybe my gut instinct is correct and I am right to be annoyed by the nagging thought that this album could have been a lot better; looser, punkier, more risky. One feels Bettie Serveert could do far better. After all they have three drummers. Let us hear more of them. All at once.
Words : Richard Foster