Huh? Dutch bands? Outside of Focus*, Golden Earring and Shocking Blue who’s heard of any? Well, you’d be surprised as, believe it or not this is a pretty big topic to dive into. We could turn to Dutch language beat bands from the 1960s (an era which some absolutely brilliant singles, whether you understand them or not). Or the brilliant punk, post-punk and new wave era which produced many weird and wonderful acts, such as Minny Pops, who signed to Factory records at the behest of Rob Gretton.
But why should I focus on the Dutch? For those who don’t know, I live in The Netherlands and work in the Dutch music industry. Consequently I have nearly two decades’ worth of watching, writing about and working with Dutch alternative bands. I’m even writing a book about some (more fool me).
In fact, there are so many interesting acts I have decided to start an occasional mini series with this article. Whilst I could pick a best of (which would miss lots of great things out and not really represent matters) I decided to start with the present, and talk about those acts I’ve seen, worked with and have hopes for outside this small, often unassuming land.
Why not start right away in the here and now with Dokkum’s The Homesick? This lot are a brilliant scally trio from Friesland who are all round 20 years old and make a feisty, crunching and sometimes trippy C21st take on Postcard Records’ back catalogue. They’re a funny bunch of lads; the drummer drives a decommissioned German military vehicle round his small town and the other two like dossing about in casual attire. They once told me their hero was Kanye West, but then again they listen to Captain Beefheart and Conny Plank. They are probably the best alternative act in the country. Listen to their debut LP, ‘Youth Hunt’, on repeat. Recommended.
Two members of the Homesick joined by their mates. To those who like a bit of Happy Mondays then look no further. They made a record of quiet pop genius in ‘More Than A Facebook Friend’. They play too infrequently to get anywhere sadly. Maybe they can’t be arsed.
Vox Von Braun
Another bunch of northern dilettantes. Residents of Groningen, a town that famously never goes to sleep (the city centre kebab shop shuts round 8am). I only ever see some of the band by moonlight. And the stories round the singer, Wymer, a poet of rare refinement, are those of small town legend. They never do ANYTHING but made two records of utter brilliance in the last 10 years. For smokers and bedroom poets.
Amber Arcades is the moniker of Annelotte de Graaf. She made a sparkling pop record in ‘Fading Lines’ a couple of years back: one that deservedly got picked up by Heavenly Records. The sound isn’t too far away from what Felt used to knock out. (Most of these modern NL bands really remind me a lot of my 80s favourites I must say, I don’t know why.)
Rats on Rafts
A Rotterdam band of legend and a number of lineup changes. They made two of the greatest alternative records in this last decade; the poppy, Teardroppy ‘Moon Is Big’ and the more experimental, steel-plated ‘Tape Hiss’. Snarling, ambitious and intelligent and outstanding live, they are not afraid to say what they see to be right; a stance that has ruffled many feathers in their homeland. Often with good reason. Recently signed to Fire Records and currently working on a new LP with a new line up. Listen to all their music, it’s exhilarating.
Sadly no more due to the passing of one of the great figures in the Dutch alternative scene, guitarist and producer, Corno Zwetsloot. They made two absolutely shredding guitar records, not initially easy on the ear but possessing of a hypnotic, driving quality that fans of Sonic Youth or Husker Dü would enjoy. They also released an amazing version of ‘Verschwende Deine Jugend’ by D.A.F.
I love this Rotterdam band, they are like the Slits in their cheekiness and wit. Ace tracks too. They are currently getting their mojo together for a major sonic assault. We wait with baited breath for a debut LP
There are so many more contemporary acts I could mention (WOLVON, Lewsberg, Charlie & the Lesbians, Moon Moon Moon, Slow Worries, to name a few) that I will have to do another update, so watch out. For now, genieten ervan!
*(I always liked Stuart Maconie’s description of Focus guitarist Jan Akkerman as someone who, when playing, looked like he’d got his manhood stuck in his flies).
RICHARD FOSTER – FOLLOW RICHARD ON @incendiarymagazine