Thu June 7, 2007
Belgian Culture- Rock
Belgian chocolate, Belgian lace, Belgian beer, yes, but Belgian rock music? Isn't rock from Belgium about as unexpected as fish from Austria or mountain biking in the Netherlands? And yet, several Belgian bands have achieved high critical acclaim abroad, not only in Europe, but also in the United States.
The Belgian rock tradition was established rather late, at the end of the seventies, when in the wake of the new wave movement, several bands emerged. With the exception of Arno Hintjens' T.C. Matic, they did not gain much renown outside Belgium, but they did prove that Belgians could make fascinating rock music themselves. More importantly, the stimulated a whole new generation to take up not only guitars and drums but also less typical instruments, such as violin, metalophone, steel plate, and the like, and to start experimenting. This resulted in a Belgian rock scene that is as diverse as it is original.
This is certainly the case for Antwerp, which has spawned bands such as dEUS and its spin-offs Zita Swoon, Dead Man Ray and Flowers for Breakfast. The main characteristic of the so-called Antwerp scene is the constant intermingling of the members of the groups, everybody playing in bands with everybody, taking styles and personalities to other groups.
dEUS was formed in the early nineties around lead singer Tom Barman. This group's music shows a taste for the absurd, is never straightforward, and always has a twist that makes it stand out of the ordinary--nice melodies flirting with the experimental. dEUS' erratic musical identity is located somewhere between John Cale, Captain Beefheart and Sonic Youth. The band is one of the few groups which managed to sign an international record deal (with Island) even when it had but a small group of followers in Belgium. To date, dEUS has produced three major CDs: Worst Case Scenario (1994); In a Bar under the Sea (1996) and The Ideal Crash (1999).
Zita Swoon (previously Moondog Jr.) is the band of Stef Camil Carlens, the former bass player of dEUS (even through the group predates the founding of dEUS). Their music is a blend of very diverse musical styles, ranging from blues to seventies glamrock, with strong reminiscences of Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Zita Swoon succeeds in transforming these influences into a very original, innovative sound. Albums by Zita Swoon include: A Beatband, Jintro travels the world in a skirt (1993); Moondog Jr. Everyday I wear a greasy black feather on my hat (1995); Music inspired by Sunrise (1997), and I paint pictures on a wedding dress (1998).
Dead Man Ray is one of the bands of Rudy Trouve, dEUS' ex lead guitarist. So far, they have produces one album, Berchem (1998), named after an area in the city of Antwerp. Like dEUS and Zita Swoo, Dead Man Ray has a sound of its own. The computer is the most important instrument of Dead Man Ray; using the "cut and paste" option produces an unpredictable sound. Dead Man Ray's music is influenced by the different musical background of its members: the result is a strange-sounding pop song.
Flowers for Breakfast, a group of six, debuted in 1996 with the album Baron Samedi conducts the Onion Philharmonique. Their sound has been defined as dreams translated into music or just absurd little tales. The atmosphere is alternately dreamy, dark, light-hearted and mesmerizing. Stylistically, it zigzags between tight Sonic Youth-like pop, trip hop, and nice, European folksy pop. A second album, titled Homebound, followed in 1998