My relationship with the Springbok Nude Girls, and Arno Carstens, got off to a rocky start but from the moment I first heard Genie, I’ve been faithful in my devotion. We weathered the change from the crazy moshpit days of SNG to the more sedate tones of Arno’s solo project with barely a hiccup. Needless to say, a new release always has me quivering with anticipation, and I grabbed a copy of Arno’s latest offering, Wonderful Wild as soon as it hit the shelves. And now I am left asking myself, is this the beginning of the end for us?
Of course, no one was expecting an SNG album and a more adult contemporary vibe is par for the course. But sadly, the album that is supposedly geared to catapult Arno to international superstardom has been overproduced to within an inch of its life. The quirky lyrical content that Arno is famous for still lurks in the background, and the first single Dreamer tends to get stuck in your head after a few listens. But the emphasis appears no longer to be on his growling vocals, which have always been what set Carstens’ music apart. Gone too are the blues inspired guitar solos that seemed tailor-made for the collaboration between Carstens and virtuoso Albert Frost. Instead we are treated to a truly odd phenomenon – the instruments lend themselves almost to an elevator music atmosphere, and yet manage to drown out the subtleties of the vocals. So what we are left with is an album that is catchy in parts, and may ultimately grow on me, but for the most part is rendered bland by playing it safe and overproduction.
Perhaps I am being harsh…we often are when confronted with the first disappointment from a previously perfect relationship. Is it a terrible album? No. It’s…nice. And perhaps if I wasn’t such an ardent fan, I would think it was good. But I know what Arno Carstens is capable of and this isn’t it. Do I blame him? Not really. He has more than paid his dues in the industry, and one can only assume that he has been advised, by the same powers that be who threw so much money at the production, that this was the way to make it big in the European market. I only wish that the European market could get to know the beautiful music we have heard from him before…perhaps this will serve as an appetiser and ultimately, after finding that huge success, he will be able to return to his roots. Assuming he wants to.
So, is it the end of the love affair? Will I look away when Arno releases his next album? No. All relationships have their share of disappointments and I’m not ready to give up on this one yet. And we’ll always have Genie.