Skop, Skiet en Donnerby Roger Young / 09.03.2010
Look, I’m not going to fuck around, you’re going to need better speakers than the ones you have in order to fully appreciate the new Van Coke Kartel album, Skop Skiet en Donner. At times it gets so ridiculously heavy and overblown that it becomes nothing short of glorious. VCK might have brought on board a producer (Peach Van Pletzen, also on Drums and other stuff) with a distinctive style but it hasn’t made them any less, unapologetically, them. It’s just that this time they sound like they’re having a whole lot more fun.
While the single “Voor Ons Stof Word” hinted at (and frightened some with) an electronic leaning, it’s only on two other tracks, “Ondier Kom”, an electric guitar assault with an electro wasp underpinning, and the balladey “Skadus Teen Die Muur” that the electronica really comes to the fore. Other than those two tracks, the production only serves to enhance (and sometimes restrain in order to enhance) the rock and roll enthusiasm of Van Coke and Myburgh.
Skop Skiet and Donner (SSD) often goes suddenly and smoothly from harmonic acoustic rock into dirty grinding 80’s hair rock-esque replete with spiraling guitar solo’s. The whole album starts off so breathless and speed-train-like that it feels unsustainable. Although it’s not exactly wildly experimental music (it stays in a solid rock mould throughout) it does exhibit such a beautiful balance between angst, playfulness and attitude that it can’t help but feel like liberation. On “Ondier Kom” Francois sings “Duiwels in skaapklere/Hier en nou/Jy het niks nodig nie/maar ek is afhanklik” (Devils in sheeps clothing/Here and now/You don’t need anything/but I am a dependant) over buzzing guitar and relentlessly churning drums. The pace gets a bit oppressive with “Huissiek Gebiede” but is suddenly broken with “Maniac”, a cover of a song from the Flashdance soundtrack that has castinets and a disarming honesty that makes you think that VCK might actually take being a “Steel town girl on a Saturday night” to heart. “Mans Sonder Missie” continues Van Coke’s signature strained vocal chord pulling the words from his gut style with stadium rock guitar bits that conjur up pictures of many stetched and broken microphone cables.
It is however an album of three parts, the first five tracks being the balls to the wall, it shifts quickly into a different almost ballad type gear. (Note: I say “almost” and “type”, VCK don’t know how to restrain the rock). It doesn’t exactly slow down, but the pace does change. Bashing guitars and spiraling electronics make way for the slide guitar of “Spookstad”, that builds and ebbs into near silence through Van Coke singing “Die nadors gee my tyd om te dink/Niks voel meer dieselfde nie/Miskien sal slaap my kan genees, maar ek is nie moeg genoeg nie/Trek my beste klere aan/Erken die nederlaag terwyl ek voëls en karre buite hoor sing/Iemand sal my eendag hoor sing” (This hangover is giving me time to think/ Nothing feels the same anymore/Sleep might heal me, but I am not tired enough/Put my best clothes on/acknowledge the defeat while cars and birds are singing outside/Someday someone will hear me sing) and then grinds into highs of mash noise rock. Van Coke is obviously a man who likes to beat himself up and it makes for some great rock n roll. While the “Cocaine” cover (props to the Hammond organs) is solid enough, it’s “Skadus Teen Die Muur” that (although written by Koos Du Plessis) really shows off Van Coke’s melancholy.
“Bitterpil” sees Myburgh and Van Pletzen working like a tightly knit team to drive Van Coke’s “Die situasie verg groter aandag maar ek was te moeg/Laat Maandag maar sy eie tyd gebruik om blou te wees/Sal eerder my naam in die kroeg vergeet” (This situation needs greater attention but I was too tired/Let Monday be blue on its own time/Would rather forget my name in the bar) into a crescendo of self immolation through builds and breaks while still allowing for harmonies and a guitar solo straight from early ZZTop. “Die Laaste Sondag” is also heavily rhythm driven and contains the heart cracking lyric: “Ek het jou gesien daai eerste aand/Jy was skeel van al die booze/Daar was vuur in my are/Ek was hoog/Die nag het my bly vang/Ek het geweier om weer huistoe te te kom” (I saw you that first night/You went squint from all the booze/There was a fire in my veins/I was high/The night was catching me/I refused to return home).
Skop Skiet en Donner ends with two acoustic and stripped down reworkings of songs from earlier albums (“Algehele Kontrole” and “Ondersteuning Geweie”) that really illustrate just what a tight unit Myburgh and Van Coke are. With slide guitar re-featuring on the first, Van Coke pacing his delivery over the course of the tracks and both being now so obviously rythmn driven, you can feel Myburgh holding him back and then urging him on.
On Skop Skiet en Donner VCK finally step out from the shadow of Fokofpolisiekar, they may still lurk near it’s edges in places but overall SSD is a move in a new direction. By allowing themselves a producer that has by turns facilitated them going to new places and held them back from constantly being over the top, Van Coke’s lyrics now feel that much more honest and movingly delivered, Myburgh’s bass is more in control. While not without faults (it does feel about two tracks two long), it is a magnificent display of the pain, humour and rock solid balls of Van Coke Kartel. To paraphrase “Raad vanuit twee oorde”, they should have tried it sooner.