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Arno Carstens

Papa ek wil ‘n Adult Contemporary Popster word

by Roger Young / 26.03.2010

Arno Carstens new album Wonderful Wild is designed for the international equivalent of a 94.7 listener and, in this regard, it is a success. A sea of unobtrusive, string heavy, over produced, mild, sing along songs that all seem to blend into one. It’s not that the songs themselves are necessarily bad, but something about the way Wonderful Wild is produced makes Carstens seem, well, not present. It’s like he is somewhere in the background, every time a song builds his voice is drowned in minor electronic effects and over-heavy orchestration. Perhaps this is because the album is produced by Youth, whose success with The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” over ten years ago, seems to have gone to his head and stayed there.

Based on an adult contemporary standard it’s hard to find fault with the songs individually, they do what they do, subtly inserting their melodic hooks in your head (albeit briefly) but the production and tempo on all of them is so similar that as an album it’s hard to find any songs that really stand out.

“Dreamer” and “Emergency” are basically interchangeable and both obvious choices for radio singles, they’re the kind of songs that if heard enough times will worm their way into your consciousness and lull your brain to sleep. Both “Heartbreak” and “Spoil It With A Kiss” are simple and superfluous; stunningly below Carstens song writing ability. “Wonderful Wild” is probably the most engaging track on the album, but only because it has a striking resemblance in places to Bobby Angel’s “Gentle On My Mind”. On “Avalanche” and “Note Of Bliss” we find him lyrically exploring darker territory but like all the other tracks, his efforts are undermined by the sonic layers that cover him. It’s not as if the songs, at their core, are badly written, it’s that they are all given the same treatment, I can even imagine that at least two thirds of this album would be incredible to listen to live, stripped of it’s bland over the top arrangements.

We all know that Carstens can sing, and he has always had a deft ability to put an illogical and engaging spin on a simple lyrical theme, but on Wonderful Wild, these are both second to the instrumentation. If Carsten’s voice and creativity was more present on this album, if he had only found a more accomplished rhythm section to work with, Wonderful Wild would have been lifted from the sameness it suffers from.

The one great disappointment in Wonderful Wild is that there are moments where the production does not overpower, (The opening of “Sunrise” is one) where we hear hints of how good this album could have been had Carstens just kept it simple. The other is that because it is a background album with just enough lyrical hooks poking through, it might actually be a radio success, which will only mean he’ll be tempted to produce more of the same.

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RESPONSES (23)
  1. Jannie Loper says:

    Ja Arno is en was maar altyd bietjie van ‘n loser. Wat gaan met sy hare aan??

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  2. growing old disgracefully says:

    There’s a steadily growing crop of albums being released by established yet still relatively young artists that is deliberately pitched at “a more mature and refined audience”, usually accompanied with promotional bollocks along the lines of “my next step in the evolution as an artist is to gain the acceptance and respect of an older audience with more discriminating taste”.

    From a creative perspective this is a load of horseshit. More and more albums are being pitched at an older audience because this target market has yet to realise that music can now be downloaded for free, preferring the well-rehearsed familiarity of placing the shiny disc in the tray and thumbing through glossy sleeve notes. Many performers are wilfully turning their backs on the younger generation because the kids just don’t pay the bills anymore.

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  3. growing old disgracefully says:

    One other thing – not all of us “know” that Carstens can “sing”

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  4. hannes says:

    Punches clearly pulled cos you know the guy and want to be invited to sushi-laden launches – you should have written this article ‘growing old’!!

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  5. tara says:

    growing old – i dont think there’s sense in discriminating against age brackets, the bummer is that producers are not just pandering to a radio listening public, they’re creating that radio listening public and dumbing it down for a quick short lived buck.

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  6. Andy says:

    Hannes, everyone who has worked in SA cultural commentary for the last few would have met Arno Carstens.. what does that have to do with expressing ones opinion of his latest musical offering?

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  7. growing old disgracefully says:

    tara – wtf?

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  8. hannes says:

    I’m saying that this Young guy held back out of I don’t know respect for the SNG back catalogue or what a cool guy Arno is: you can pick it up between the lines. It’s made for a hesitant review.

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  9. Goldie Locks without the Bears says:

    No one really took him serious after SNG anyway, so why so disappointed? And yes, what is up with the hair??

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  10. Stumpy says:

    Young held back because, y’know, why kick a man when he is down?

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  11. tara says:

    well done hannes, you read between the lines!

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  12. Jason says:

    Didn’t that guy from BOO do the exact same shit?

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  13. Silent Bob says:

    Arno Carstens has gone adult contempoary – ja sure!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The South African market, for Arno Carstens is tiny. He has now had to make an album, for the entire western world – of course it’s not going to attract long time fans of Arno Carstens/Nudies, but that is not it’s goal. Fans of Carstens/Nude Girls STILL HAVE those albums – what do you want? More of the same. Are people that nostalgic, they want him repeat himself? This is album IS FOR A DIFFERENT MARKET! Of course it has to have the ability to attract a much range of listeners. Let me ask you something – if you were watering your garden, and it a really shit looking garden, that neded water to look good, but it did have a sinle really spectacular plant in it. If that plant got any water on it, it would die. You have guests comng oVer, and you really want the whole garden to look decent. What do, get a watering can, and look the one special and prepare for the outrageous embarassment that’ll happen, or get a wide sprinkler, to water everything, so the garden looks good?

    South Africa have finally got a potential rock star, but it ‘s fashionable to mock him – who’re the fashion victims now?

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  14. Roger Young says:

    Silent Bob.

    I would never expect Arno to repeat himself, I would hope that he would grow as an artist. This album is a lesser version of his first solo album and the production drowns him out in actuality and in creativity. Yes, it’s getting radio play, yes he’s opening for Ronan Keating in London and yes I wish him every success, if this is the way he chooses to go. But I’m not going to sit back and ignore the fact that this album sounds like every other Adult Contemp. album out there, and I’m not going to try hide this fact by talking about some such shit like “South Africa have finally got a potential rock star ” because that just makes no sense. Financial success does not mean artistic credibility, you seldom get both together. And just because he’s selling records in London doesn’t mean I have to like the music.I don’t think I was mocking Arno in any way. If this is his choice and it works for him, more power to him, it’s just not an album that I want to listen to. That’s all the above review says, if you took the time to read it properly, like Hannes obviously did.

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  15. Katoey says:

    Fuck that jacket is ugly

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  16. Alibaba says:

    Jissie, like seriously page boy moffie hair their Arno.

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  17. Somerfaan says:

    When Carstens flies off in his own private jet with a fireplace, he’s not going to care what any of you wankers have to say. Why not slag the real wining shit adult cont. wankers like the Parlatones, who’s never attempted to be anything else but the poor man’s Coldplay

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  18. Neanderthal 1 says:

    Private jet with a fireplace huh?
    He ain’t buying one of those any time soon if he carries on down this slippery slope…

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  19. lfd says:

    Haven’t heard the album, but from the review it seems that the producer underestimated or undervalued Arno’s musical talent and experience. I know that he has much more to offer the musical world, if you remember SNG brought out a few redoubtable albums also and it did nothing to their overall creative ability. En Arno, ek love jou hare, fok almal, lol!

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  20. arno carstens says:

    there s truth in all your comments thanks for your time ! im of on tour with ultravox this week ! X

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  21. Anonymous says:

    befok! wie was hulle nou weer?

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  22. Jon says:

    I cant beleive some of these these comments…..Arno Carstens is fantastic… he got me ( a 50 year old) to download Emergency on Youtube because I think his the riffs & vocals are awesome….I have listened to evertthing from Motown to Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Miley Cirus, Katey Perry to Kurt Darren ! Gve this guy some respect … he is truely a South African superstar in the making … born Manchester UK, maar heeltemal tweetalig… Arno rocks !!!

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  23. R says:

    Well done!

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