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Album Review

Bettie Serveert's charm, as established from the get-go on their debut album, wasn't any kind of new radicalism but the members' way around well-known rock styles to unexpected effect. Everything from third album Velvet Underground and Neil Young's furious electric heights to the Wedding Present's bruised romanticism (the production especially calls to mind some of Steve Albini's work for that band) has an echo here. What makes it all connect isn't simply the considerable abilities of the group, especially guitarists Visser and van Dijk, but van Dijk's strong singing and lyrics both. Combining both a low-key sass and a slightly distanced, concerned tone, her voice cuts directly through the arrangements, the most upfront thing in the mix. Comparisons aren't easy to make; early Chrissie Hynde makes a certain amount of sense, but van Dijk is no clone. As for her subject matter, small details of everyday life, especially concerns of identity and dealing with others, form the basis of her sharp, sometimes painfully close to the heart images. "Brain-Tag," with her plaintive refrain "Have I ever laid my hands on you before?" and "Healthy Sick" are two of the standouts on that level. When she stops to let the music fully take over, the transition is often perfect — "Kid's Allright" is a good example, the instrumental breaks carrying the forceful feel of the words into the nonverbal. "Tom Boy," the surprise U.S. minor radio hit from the album, shows the quartet's mix of skills quite nicely. A mid-paced but lovely number with a descending chord riff à la T. Rex (if not as glammy otherwise) and van Dijk's multi-tracked vocals claiming the term for herself, "because only a tom boy could rise above it," make Palomine a quietly addictive number from this fine album.


Formed: 1990 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although they didn't cross over into the mainstream the way some of their peers did, Holland's Bettie Serveert became significant college radio stars during the '90s with their jangly, sweetly melodic, at times surprisingly muscular guitar pop. The band's sound was familiar, even archetypal, yet with its own distinct flavor that suggested any number of reference points and made exact comparisons elusive. Much of Bettie Serveert's reputation rested on their 1992 debut, Palomine, and even though critical...
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Palomine, Bettie Serveert
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