Van Coke Kartel - 'Wie's Bang' review  

by Murray Walker

Van Coke Kartel's fourth studio album say's 'Wie's Bang' on the cover. No question mark. Because it's not a question, it's more a statement and what it really says is 'Ek's Bang' because the Kartel come out of the starting blocks at one hell of a speed. Like the bulls in Pamplona, so scared, they're angry. Thrashing with precision at topics like belief, culture, politics, laziness and growing up while standing on the thin line the world finds itself on between global catastrophe and the status quo.

The Kartel is now a permanent four-piece - before it was just Wynand Myburgh and Francois van Coke who would get musicians in who they felt like jamming with. The two newbies are Jedd Kossew on lead guitar and Jason Oosthuizen on drums. "We couldn't be happier. Jason and Jedd are great and it is a massive bonus that we get along great and are good mates" says van Coke. They have certainly helped in getting VCK back to what they're good at; rapid, aggressive, punk-tinge rock 'n roll although they also find time to slow things down on tracks like 'Dankie, Ek's Veilig Hier' and 'Tot die Son Uitkom'. Their 3rd album, 'Skop, Skiet en Donner' had an 80's retro sound to it that puzzled many, especially because it followed SAMA-winning 'Waaksaam en Wakker', an album which blistered with verocity.
'Wie's Bang' is apocalyptic and sad in it's vision of where humanity is going but as with so many of the warnings out there, it displays hope that we can manage our burdens and fight for something better. It's a common message, sure, but it's by no means tired and VCK paint the picture vividly. Via both the lyrics and the music.
Van Coke has taken a shining to this lyric writing thing and is producing some powerful stuff. "I think there are a lot of scared people in South Africa at the moment" explains Francois, and that fear is expressed succinctly in songs like 'Einde van die Wereld' and 'Dis 'n Land' with lines like "Dis oor almal wat al jare vrees/Altyd gereed vir die ongelukkige einde/Ons hoor dit oor en oor..." (It's about everyone that's been afraid for years/Always ready for the unlucky end/We hear about it over and over) and "Dis 'n land van korrupsie en god dank/Dis 'n land van liefde vir drank" (It's a country of corruption and thanking the Lord/It's a country of love for drink). While my Afrikaans comes short at times, I get by well enough to follow his writing. His ideas are clear and poetic with lines like "Reageer net vinniger/ek sal net een keer kom/soos 'n woedende maaier" (Just react faster/I'll only come once/Like a livid reaper) on the title track.
Special mention must go to Jack Parow, who guests on 'Chaos'. It's the first time I've seen him seriously angry and man, he spits those rhymes with such velocity that you think he's about to start speaking in tongues and go off in a trance. More please.
The music fills in the colours fantastically. VCK went back to Theo Crous to produce this album after having 'Skop, Skiet en Donner' produced by Peach van Pletzen (he produces one track on this album - 'Vir Almal'). Kossew wrote much of the riffage and I think it's safe to say Theo and Jedd had loads of fun making this album. The guitar work is slick and beautiful, it's aggressive and energetic but always subtle in it's command. Pretty much all you can ask for in a leader. Kossew tells me he has the likes of Metallica, Led Zep and The Beatles on his iPod, not surprising considering the riffage and solo wizardry on 'Wie's Bang'.
The absolute stand out track is certainly 'Tot die Einde Kom'. To quote Rolling Stone SA editor Miles Keylock, "It's VCK's 'Stairway to Heaven'". This song is the beacon of hope on the album, it makes everything seem rather pleasant and manageable. "I think love has always played a part in our music. You can't hate everything right? 'Tot die Son Uitkom' is definitely a love song." says Francois.
The Kartel seem a happy family and I think the band have approached what they're really after in their music. The result is impressive, from the music to the packaging to the band's website, Van Coke Kartel are doing things right.

Writer, photographer, wannabe rock star.

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