This CD is the latest from one of the coolest bands in the world, hailing from the coolest country in the world, released on the one of the world’s coolest labels. That’s a lot of cool in one sentence, so let me explain.
This recording is the latest from Holland’s Bettie Serveert, the foursome of Carol van Dyk (the press materials say Dyk…other CDs spell it Dijk), Peter Visser, Herman Bunskoeke and Reimar Veldman. BS exploded onto the world music scene in 1992 with the absolutely classic Palomine, one of the ’90s defining moments in music. Palomine resembles in part the sound on Private Suit: Ms. van Dijk mesmerizes you into a hypnotic state with her understated, soulful vocal delivery while Visser provides a riffing, melodic guitar undertow that builds on almost every song to an aural climax.
Indeed, that description is overtly sexual; however, this is a very sexy band, and I challenge anyone to listen to any Bettie Serveert recording and conclude that they are not the alternative pop equivalent of Luther Vandross or Barry White. Private Suit puts you in the mood.
Some critics were a bit disappointed with the studio CDs that followed Palomine. Sure, the tracks on Lamprey and 1997’s Dust Bunnies were different than Palomine, but it would be difficult and close to impossible to capture the sheer explosiveness of tracks like “Balentine” off of Palomine.
The opener “Unsound” is classic Bettie Serveert: hypnotic guitar lines with the almost lounge-like vocals of Carol van Dijk. She surprises me on this recording because never has she challenged herself as on some of these tracks. Her range is impressive, and it is extremely impactful when she soars into a high note from her lower, sultry tone. The third track, the title track, “Private Suit”, loops and weaves and is marked by strong melody and understated strings. “Auf Viedersehen” is nailed by Ms. van Dijk. Julie London could not have sung this torch song better. “White Tails” is a strong guitar rock number with a strong chorus.
There is an unrealistic pressure on artists to recreate that which is spontaneous and of the moment in the studio. Those types of moments mark Bettie Serveert’s best work, and this recording has those kind of moments. Indeed, the collective body of work of Bettie Serveert is some of the finest recordings of the last 10 years. Their misfortunate is having to compete with themselves in the music industry and rock critic eye. Hidden Agenda, a division of Parasol, understands that Serveert is, legitimately, one of the finest bands in the world, whether compared to other bands or to Serveert’s own work. Whatever you compare them to, Bettie Serveert’s Private Suit stands up on its own as one of the best releases of 2000.