Just about everything I’ve read about Bettie Serveert’s new album, Bare Stripped Naked (on local label Minty Fresh), argues that the veteran Dutch band, now entering its 15th year together, is little more than a group of indie-rock survivors. Supposedly they’re trudging forward in a style that went out of fashion in the late 90s, and moreover they’re constantly failing to reach the levels of their apex, 1992’s Palomine. But you know what? While that assessment is essentially true, when you consider the average songs of the indie-rock era, most fail to equal the sweet hookiness Bettie Serveert has routinely achieved. I’ll admit that it’s been years—more like a 13 or 14 years, actually—since I pulled out one of their old records for pleasure, but Bettie Serveert records don’t sound especially stale, even today.
The ballad-heavy new record—which is packaged with a DVD of stripped-down live performance footage and some brief studio documentary action—does show them trying to do something slightly different, paring down their sound and emphasizing more gentle and quiet arrangements. They tap into some of their trusty Crazy Horse-style stomping on the closer, “Certainlie”—with guitarist Peter Visser still chasing the spirit of Neil Young–but otherwise it’s a subdued affair. While that means that shapes of the songs are pretty much the same, it does put a greater focus on the singing of Carol van Dyk, always the most satisfying and unique part of the band. They’re currently on tour—they play the Abbey Pub on Thursday, October 5—and I’ll give them credit for perseverance.