Maybe the Henk and Melle record from a few years back gave Henk Koorn a new sense of what could be utilised in Hallo Venray. Maybe he’s just decided to show his softer side.
My oh my, this is a good record. And not a record I’d really expect from Hallo Venray either. Somehow there’s a softness and grace here that has translated itself into beautiful turns of phrase and melody. You know, if I had one thing that wound me up about Hallo Venray – a band I have always really wanted to unconditionally like – it was that their over reliance on dynamics stopped their pop sensibility, and their own messages in their tracks. I mean I do like them as people, very much, but that’s by the bye. Rather, musically, it was that they could sound clunky or two dimensional at times, relying on their supreme appreciation of sound and incredible musicianship to hide any lack of hinterland, or any moments where you’d want them to take off and truly open up. This record’s different. Here, tracks like Airy and Daytime boast these beautiful turns of phrase that allow a feeling that’s much more human. Bob Dylan Lyrics is a great example where the easy come, easy go nature of the record allows a warm, open, gentle side that is still focused, still as independent as ever. And there are some funny lyrics here; “the sky’s the limit / mine’s about two feet” in Two Feet is brilliant, worthy of Lou Reed, (and yes this track does tip its titfer to the Velvets a lot, and yes there’s a lot that is slightly Reedian on here, or slightly glam in places; such as that riff on Simple).
Of course they have their take on grinding, stripped back, gasoline-rich road-rock, such as Cranky and Simple. They are a band whose lean sound could soundtrack the open road easily; possibly the only Dutch band (maybe Vox Von Braun too) whose music lends itself to the highway. But here too, the effects and dynamics are kept in check and elements of the melody line run the show. It’s neat, quick, and served up with a much lighter touch. The brilliant, “shake of a lamb’s tail” ending on Favourite Uncles is something I wouldn’t expect from them. And as such, it’s refreshing. And what about that fabulous chord switch in Buildings? It will stop you in your tracks, as will that “ba-ba-ba-bah-bah” refrain in Show.
Maybe the Henk and Melle record from a few years back gave Henk Koorn a new sense of what could be utilised in Hallo Venray. I think he’s also looked to reappraise some older stuff (is that Hallo Venray’s take on Deze’s bucolic vibe in Drunken People? I wonder...) Maybe he’s just decided to show his softer side. There are times where this frankness and openness does jar; I’m not sure whether the undoubted sincerity of Controversy really comes off. But then a track like the sublime Faster comes along with its little Rother-style guitar twangs and Atlas Sound-style distortion and wipes all the grime away.
The odd track aside, this is brilliant. Truly. Deserves to be massive