donderdag 10 september 2015

Bang the Drum. The Maureens

The praises to The Maureens have been sung on this blog since this spring. First that very pleasant, intimate show in Q-Bus, Leiden, then the first album revisited. The Q-Bus show was a try out for the new album that was to be released in September, the band announced that night. The result is that I'm listening to an album on which some of the songs sound very familiar. Despite the fact I only heard them once, they stuck. I think that it is this quality The Maureens have, that make the band so pleasant to listen to. The Maureens aim for nothing else than the perfect pop song, the best fitting harmonies, the ultimate sound. "Emily, I've got you under my skin"? I could sing along during the show, let alone when Bang the Drum opened with 'Heartbreak'.

The Maureens capture that sound between the bitter and the sweet perfectly, and, as if by magic, make a smile appear on my face at the same time. This is a mix most other bands just don't reach. The music The Maureens plays deserves intense listening, as many a detail is hidden like small treasures in the midst of the whole, with always prominent, multi-layered harmony singing

References can be given as huge as the tall ships on the IJ in Amsterdam during the Sail event. There is The Beatles and all that comes after starting with Big Star, The Jayhawks, a duo like Peter & Gordon or Greenfield & Cook and Johan for the Dutch connection. There is this mix of 60s pop, Americana and just doing what the band feels like to make a song sound right and the singing stand out. A pedal steel with a church organ (sound)? A distorted guitar solo can be mixed in there, while the sweet sounding "aah" harmonies just continue in 'September'.

The voices of Hendrik-Jan de Wolff and Bas van de Looy are the feature that stand out most on Bang the Drum. They continuously weave in and out of each other. All vocals are double and simply made for each other or so it seems. Hendrik-Jan is just lower in the range, Bas, this little higher. Together they aim for and often reach perfection. I wonder what the two felt when they discovered this click between them.

From there the songs seem to become vehicles for the vocals. That was my thought at first listen. Some songs on Bang the Drum seemed a little forced to me, especially compared to that other staple of perfection, the then only recently bought debut album 'The Maureens'. This feeling left me listening to Bang the drum more often. The songs simply flow out of my speakers. Songs for all moods, for all moments, for every moment of the day. Bang the Drum doesn't have a single dip. It is one huge mountain range with an occasional peak. Nothing is forced. Bang the Drum moves The Maureens to another level.

Among these heights a song like 'Bloom' reaches even higher. Like the Pic Blanc can only be reached after reaching l'Alpe d'Huez. This melancholy dream of a song just meanders on. Perfect pop with a sigh of grief. This level of beauty I haven't heard a lot in this country since the demise of Johan. (Mountaineer comes a long way on his album '1974'). The Maureens do it here. And then simply do it again in the title track. 'Bang the Drum' has this 60s sound, with the pedal steel mixed in. A song to cry for. I am just stuck for words. A straight A or 10, nothing less would be appropriate.

If there is something to complain about it is that things are very neat on Bang the Drum, this little bit more danger or perhaps a dash of madness would have really put them next to Johan. That is all, it is not a flaw, it's a choice and that's all.

Bands like this do not score hits any more in this country (and I suppose elsewhere), but I expect them at least to appear in the morning show of Giel Beelen on 3FM soon and hearing its songs played in the coming months. Dutch bands do not come much better in 2015. The Maureens are ready to step into the void Johan left behind, says,


You can listen to 'Heartbreak' here:

or buy on Bolcom

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