- Watch the Hole Heart video online. Available in speeds suitable for dialup, medium band and broadband (ADSL) users.- Subscribe to Music Podcasts and hear our exclusive interview with Arno
It's clear from the production on this album that Arno Carstens is headed more and more for the mainstream market. Some would say "adult contemporary market", whatever that means, with a slight sneer. These critics may prefer the old Nude Girls' sound.
With The Hello Goodbye Boys, Arno proves that hardcore is overrated, and that moving forward is more challenging than satisfying a small bunch of aging fans' established taste in music.
The new album is a balanced collection of passionate songs, with quite a few outstanding potential hit singles on it. Overall, the album showcases his talent for writing tunes, and for tapping in to what his potential audience is listening to, without resorting to imitation. His classic rock sound, instead of being flavoured Southern European as on Another Universe, takes tricks from REM, Pink Floyd and big stadium acts, keeping that hard to define but unique SA rock sound at its core.
Arno (always strong on collaboration) has drawn his new sound from his band members too - in particular from Brendan Jury (keyboards, strings) and top blues/rock guitarist Albert Frost. Albert adds space and soul. The classically proficient Brendan Jury (ex of Trans Sky, and of top Durban band Urban Creep) thicken the mix with the moodiness of sweeping violins. Concord Nkabinde and Barry Van Zyl, who played with Johnny Clegg, contribute what for argument's sake could be called "African" sounds to the album on tracks like "The man and the lion". This doesn't always work.
Brian O' Shea - the producerwho helped make Seether (then Saron Gas), puts a studio gloss on the sound, adding echo meat and an international slickness. These "Bon Jovi" tactics are what critics of Arno's new sound mostly object to. These elements are also what's most likely to push Hello Goodbye Boys onto overseas and local radio stations' playlists, which hardly favour the rough 'n ready, loveable old SA rock idiom that so many sentimentalise.
Themes of flight, travel, freedom and loss predominate in songs like "Bad city" "Kites", and "Hope to see you soon". Arno explores personal responsibility "Count to 10", "The act", always stepping back from gung ho polemics.
This is a grander, more populist sound than Another Universe. A great deal of subtlety and some amazing melodic and atmospheric moments are contained in, and occasionally a bit dominated by, the production and arrangements.
But aside from the rather lightweight "The birds and the bees" every track is worth returning to. "Hole Heart", which debuted at No 26 on 5fm, is climbing the charts. Others from the album are sure to follow.
- Jean Barker
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:"...not necessarily a poor attempt, but it reeks of over-production. Staid and radio friendly"- Charles de Olim for Tonight
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