Ndaaby Roger Young / 03.06.2011
Filled with raw power and a loose kind of promise Fruits And Veggies long awaited debut EP, Ndaa is a breezy and jittery burst of riptide ska loaded with the sounds of joyous and righteous kids trying to stake their place in the world against the trials of hard drinking, no money and shitty bars. The influences are obvious, Boo!-esque rythms, Gogol Bordello gypsy flourishes, Against Me! lyricism, Hog Hoggidy Hog ska guitar and Skunk Anansie vocal gymnastics blended with ululating and rousing harmonies. It’s the energy with which all this of this is thrown together that makes Fruits And Veggies one of the most cobweb blasting live bands around; they just fuck shit up.
At first it seems kinda strange that they chose the slow burner “The Way, The Truth and The Lies” for their opening track. But lyrically it’s an announcement of their ethos, a manifesto if you will. Purity sings: “They tell you how to live your life, while you’re just trying to get by. I just wanna say that love is the only way.” However the nature of the track is a little rambley, it’s rhythm changes and musical shifts seem a little unconsidered. The insertion of a lyric about the nights getting harder and girls getting harder to troll feels like a tangent. This is the essential stream of consciousness nature of Fruit n Veg; it just doesn’t totally work here.
“More Fire For Mandla” mixes up ululation, maskandi style guitar against a kwela bassline in a song about Durbanites, drinking and never letting the sun stop shining in your eye. Here, more than most tracks on the EP, you can hear FnV maturing while refusing to grow up. It’s distinctly more chilled than their earlier, unrecorded material. Purity’s shifts silkily between English and Zulu like everyone wishes they could, her remarkable voice light and smooth until it slightly dips and cracks as the song builds. It’s sentimental and grounded and pretty skanking.
“Without a Gwaai Or A Cent” is a celebration of being broke as the night ends against a rapid fire beat. Loopy and Purity harmonise “Two bottles of whiskey, let’s save one for later” in a way that you know they’re drinking them both now. Purity’s voice wails and twists and the song turns into a sing along stomper. “Nobby Creek” is springy pure ska, speedy up rhythms, Purity singing fast, edging herself to skat. Compared to the other tracks it feels a little inessential.
“Laat Ons Waai” opens with a loose and jumpy snare and snappy groovy guitar work, and then alternates between reggae bounce and sped up punk bluster, but again it’s Purity’s voice that pulls it all together, curling her throat around phrases like: “You grab him by the hand, you make him understand, we’re going to bring about this change, today” before slipping into the kind of vocal improvisation that can’t be taught.
“An Embarrassment in E Minor” features the lyric: “Next thing I know I wake up butt naked in the cold, where are my clothes?” and then “That’s the way it goes, you’ve got to ride the flow and lose all control”. It starts off closer to rock but soon builds back to a restless skank with Sweet Lu on drums in tight control of the shifts. “Ngzogwazimja” is a tale of being found by the law to be carrying illegal substances on your person, “Should I run?” queries Purity before the song picks up speed and heads into a growly rocky harangue of the powers that be. The kind of song that raises power fists in mosh pits.
It’s a fine debut even if, at seven tracks, Ndaa could have been trimmed a little. It does fall a little short of the raw energy of their live shows but with this kind of vigour it won’t be long before they’ve mastered the recording process as well. Fruits and Veggies effortlessly pull their myriad influences into their own distinct personality. It’s not like they’re doing anything wildly new but they do it with a sense of humour, lack of pretension and a total punk dedication; it’s the sound of youthful idealism slowly approaching cynicism, bruised egos at dawn and extremely prolific livers.