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Bauer | Can't Stop Singing (Partners in Crime)
The first surprise of Bauer's second full-length is the doubling of full-time personnel. Until now - as evidenced on the delightful home-baked debut, On The Move - Bauer has been the brand name of Berend Dubbe (one-time drummer for Bettie Serveert) but, for this sophomore outing he's joined by Sonja van Hamel whose breezy vocals complement Dubbe's own breathy delivery to great effect. The Klondike Valley kicks things off, Dubbe's voice slowly filtering through to supplement Hamel's lead, a deliberate jolt for those expecting a continuation of On The Move. There are many references to the USA, as these Amsterdam natives juxtapose globe-trotting with domestic life and narratives dip in and out of the everyday (often in one song, check "Holding firm to your furry tail, riding horses on this western trail, stranger / Just made a super purchase, big white and shiny surface, at IKEA" from Western Trail) putting a Gastr del Sol twist on traditional pop, with a keyboard-based instrumentation out-cheesed only by Moog Cookbook. At times the lyrics become secondary to classic, hook-filled pop ditties as playful as Pizzicato Five and as hip as Pinback, a feast of ear-candy for those in need of an antidote to over-earnest faux-folk acoustic troubadors. When Bauer strip things down, as on Moving, they're not afraid to inject a little smooth-soul aesthetic to their Me and Mrs Jones-on-a-budget tale of apartment life. Dubbe's crooning vocal here and on the electric piano-led Giddy Trip is imbued with an Eric Matthews' richness and similarly irony-free delivery. The sample that loops throughout Fernando Ray may not be credited but for the kitsch backdrop and key "that's not the guy in Belle de Jour" line deserves mention, other instrumental interludes (Floppy Ears, Fan) also add variety. The latter is a short, bouncing groove cut short by the attentions of our stuttering, titular hero - "Uh, I'm sorry, I just really like you guys... jus-jus-just like watching you guys play...I could just go" and that would have been a very cool place to end. Instead the title track, all sweeping strings, whimsical flute, vintage synths and echoed vocals takes that honour. Little from the Netherlands reaches these shores, even the exceptional catalogue of the Excelsior label (who released On The Move), but if it's originality you crave you'd be wise to track down this finely crafted collection. (www.bauer-plaza.com)

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001

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