Bettie Serveert — “Wide Eyed Fools”

Released: 9.8.03

Peak: Did not chart

Anyone can be a weirdo at twenty-five–kind of sad actually if you aren’t. But let’s see you hang on to your quirks till the far side of thirty. That’s where real bohemian lifers watch their sensible acquaintances drop off, either parlaying their cool into niche opportunism or bailing entirely out of enlightened self-interest, and where the kids coming up behind whisper “grow up already.” “Wide Eyed Fools” smartly charts the trajectory and the trade-offs of such a life choice–if a choice it is, rather than the inevitable fate of a certain personality.

In their ’90s heyday, Bettie Serveert could have stood to weirden up a notch. Carol Van Dijk was cutely and apologetic about her tomboyishness, and the rambling jangle of Peter Visser’s guitars probably wouldn’t have upset Hootie fans. But alt was short, and life is long. Visser listened hard to his V.U. LPs and emerged barbed and gnarled, Van Dijk simplified her name to Van Dyk and complicated her outlook on life, and if anyone born after 1980 gave Bettie Serveert a second thought it was to lump them in with college-rock has-beens like Buffalo Tom. (Case in point: Has anyone besides Joe Keyes at eMusic has noted Karen O’s vocal similarities to Van Dyk?)

The “prefab world” Van Dyk snubs in the lyrics to “Wide Eyed Fools” takes in anyone who’s slotted themselves an accepted slot–not just Justin and Britney, but the Strokes and the Stripes, maybe even you. Yet, musically, the song cleaves sharply between arty and pop. The verses are all guitar scrawl, keyboard drone, and rat-a-tat cymbal, but the chorus busts upward with a sureness that reminds us just how conventional a band Bettie Serveert can be when they want.

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