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Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof

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Album Review

Three tracks into Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof and it's starting to sound as though the headway made by the Nits on the previous year's Omsk and Kilo was all for naught. "Woman Cactus," "Silly Fool," and "Think It Over" are catchy synth pop at best, yet for the most part charmless, dated, and disposable. Then, frustratingly, comes a triple whammy of three of their most memorable songs. Legend has it that Stars on 45 producer Jaap Eggermont pushed the band into adopting a more commercial approach on Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof, although he is only credited as engineer. Yet that at least would explain the blitzkrieg of brittle pop pastiche that opens the album and the solid gold nuggets you have to rummage around for. "Mask," the first such nugget, is another of those slow-burning ballads like "Dapper Street," on which Henk Hofstede summons his best Elvis Costello croon, bolstered by a satisfyingly abrasive brass section. The bandmembers were never happy with the recording, however, and reworked the song in a spellbinding new arrangement with the Amsterdam Saxophone Quartet for the 1989 live album Urk. In fact, reservations about the production extend to much of the album, which sounds muddy, drowned in reverb, and heavy on the analog synths. No amount of technical shortcomings could sabotage the title track, though. It's a delightfully wistful Parisian waltz with a refrain that still gets audiences joining in over 20 years later. Hofstede's "The Tender Trap" is the album's last classic, a widescreen vignette of romance gone wrong with a stately brass arrangement and an overarching melody. Though the album eventually fizzles out, there are still three more fine songs to come in the form of Robert Jan Stips' "Poor Man's Pound," Michiel Peters' "The Infant King," and Hofstede's "Vah Hollanda Seni Seni." This latter is a rare venture into the world of social comment for the Nits, with its depiction of racism as seen through the eyes of a Turkish immigrant girl.

Biography

Formed: 1974 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

There seems little doubt that were they not so geographically challenged, the Nits would be one of the most widely respected bands in the world today -- at least on a par with smart-as-a-whip types like XTC and Prefab Sprout. Certainly few can match their sheer creative stamina: how many other bands can claim to be still reinventing themselves after 30 years and nearly 20 albums? But the Nits come from Holland. And furthermore, the occasional tour of the U.S. and Canada aside, they quickly made it...
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Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof, Nits
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