Review: BEAST, SMOKE SWIG SWEAR (2013)
BEAST is South Africa’s supergroup. They’re our The Traveling Wilburys or The Raconteurs, and they’re just as super. I’ve been wanting to do this review since about 10 minutes after I first heard their album when it was released a few month ago – it’s really, really good.
So, charisma abounds with Inge Beckmann (Lark), Louis Nel and Rian Zietsman (Taxi Violence) and Sasha Righini (The Plastics) on drums. The Taxi Violence guys both play bass, so there’s no ‘regular’ guitar, which for most of us just means we want to describe the music as ‘dark’, but we’re not sure why.
Beckmann’s voice is more than up to the task of filling that lead guitar role, however; just about the only thing she doesn’t have is the wah-wah effect. On the album’s opening track, Fill the Hole, you’ll wonder if shrieking ever before sounded so sweet. Thankfully, perhaps, from then on it’s toned down a bit. But it’s a great introduction to the album.
The vibe you get from Beast is that none of the members are afraid of fucking up … the fact that it’s almost a side project seems to free them up and lets them get quite a bit more crazy than they do in their ‘main’ acts. It’s fun.
There are a lot of things I like about Beast. Their infectiously energetic performances, solid song writing, the fact that their debut album is a free download.
But one thing specifically, which I just figured out on about the 900th listen to SMOKE SWIG SWEAR, is how Beckmann’s accent is both unmistakably South African, and also awesome. It’s not always there, that universal Hollywood accent sneaks in as well, but have a listen to the lyrics of Walls – ‘make space for more’, ‘just the same way as she came’ – the ‘ay’ sounds are unmistakably SABC.
This may be the first time someone has made a South African accent sound cool in an international context (the context being Hard Rock Music), by which I mean Beckmann has managed to take something we battle not to view as provincial, dominated culturally as we are by The West, and put it in a seriously ‘cool’ context without using it for parody. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I reckon this is something quite special.
SMOKE SWIG SWEAR is short, at eight songs, but it’s one of those rare albums where every song is good, joining the ranks of Skunk Anansie’s Stoosh, Green Day’s Dookie, Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, and surely a few more not recorded in my impressionable teenage years o_o
You can watch a very cool video about the band here: