Electric Petals - Polynation

Polynation

Released:
1995, Teal Records,
MMTCD-1906

Tracks:

  1. The Key (Part 1)
  2. The Key (Part 2)
  3. The Party Song
  4. Sister Love
  5. I Got A Feeling
  6. Thank You For The Book James
  7. Rainy Day Women #36
  8. Running Out Of Patience
  9. The Land (Rows And Rows)
  10. Look Up Brother
  11. Maid In Africa
  12. The Hope
  13. Surrender Thee
  14. Brave New World
  15. The Other Side Of Town
  16. Another Talking Trip
  17. (This Isn't) Walt Disney

Musicians:

  • Danny de Wet: Drums, vocals, acoustic & electronic percussion, mouth percussion
  • Angus Rose: Guitars, keyboards, vocals
  • Ajay: Vocals, bass, harmonies, guitars

Review:

Released in the wake of the historic 1994 election in South Africa, this album is a politically charged piece of white SA rock, from the harsh image of the topless albino against a background of black bodies on the cover through the threads of 'Nkosi Si'kelele' weaved into the opening track to the timely reminder in the closing track that there is a long way to go. It's an album mixed with anger (at the past) and hope (for the future.)

A host of additional musicians add to the depth of the album. Chris Chameleon (listed as Christiaan de Chameleon) and Ampie Omo from Boo! comtribute vocals and trumpet, while Vusi Mahlasela delivers a "one in a million vocal" on 'Maid in Africa'. No Friends of Harry, Magic Cactus, Minds Astray, Sarsippians, Instant Karma, Blue Chameleon and Sugardrive join the "hooligan choir" on '(This isn't) Walt Disney'.

Strong tracks are 'Sister Love', 'Thank you for the Book James' (the single off the album) and 'Maid in Africa'. The latter, probably being the jewel in the crown. It's funky, it rocks, has a great chorus and as mentioned above features and all too short, but brilliant vocal from Vusi Mahlasela. It could quite easily have been recorded by Bright Blue as it has a similar feel to 'Weeping.'

There are 2 cover versions on the album. The first is of Lennon & McCartney's 'I Got A Feeling' which rocks along with a great Hammond organ adding to the feel good factor of the song. "Everybody saw the sunshine - 27 April 1994" per the sleeve notes.

The other cover is of Dylan's 'Rainy Day women #36'. "Everybody must get sampled!" is what the sleeve notes exclaim and they do that with samples of a Petal/ Chameleon conversation, Koos Kombuis, David Peel & Lower East side, James Phillips and Bright Blue, but not only in the physical samples, but a variety of styles are sampled. The majority of the songs is funky, but then they break into a ZZ Top blues style, then bring in some great jazzy organ and fade out to some quiet piano.

'The Land (Rows and Rows)' shows off the acoustic guitar skills of Angus Rose and is a quiet breather from the rest of the album. It is a beautiful piece of music almost in the style of Tony Cox & Steve Newman.

The last track '(This isn't) Walt Disney' features some cleverly sampled lines from well know rock songs including Peter Gabriel's 'Biko', U2's 'Pride (In the name of Love)', the Velvet Underground's 'I'm waiting for the Man' and Talking Head's 'Psycho Killer' and is a call to remind us that we have had "forty years of manipulation" and it's not the happy Walt Disney ending just yet.

Overall this is a solid rock album featuring some great electric and acoustic guitar work. The lyrics are intellectual and convey a message for the time. There are a few weak tracks but not sufficient to detract from the overall effect of the album. Recommended listening.

John Samson, SA Rockdigest #78, October 2000


Another Review:

Whoa, where did this CD come from? I thought I had a passing knowledge of South African rock, of SA's past and present creativity, but this 1995 release blindsided me and woke me up. Intelligent lyrics, brilliant covers, wonderful originals, and subtle or not-so-subtle hooks abound here.

The CD begins with an almost epic statement of purpose that names or alludes to SA bands of yesterday: "astral days", "African Day", "Abstract Truth", "Conglomeration" and others. These guys may be performing the world language of rock, but their roots are planted deep in the rock of South Africa.

'Party Song' is virtually impossible to dislodge from the mind, except by a listen to 'Sister Love' or 'Thank You for the Book James'.

'Rainy Day Women #36' is an excellent Dylan cover, ranking alongside 'The Mighty Quinn' by Manfred Mann, or 'Mr. Tambourine Man' by The Byrds. I say cover, but The Electric Petals don't play slavish covers but rather do interpretations that retain the structure of the original song.

The Electric Petals' originals do not pale in comparison, either. I was intensely pleased to hear the words "leonine", "demure", and "Machiavellian" all in one song ('Running Out of Patience'). 'Maid In Africa' is about a tourist, about growing up in South Africa, and about the new world of South Africa. It starts specific then grows abstract and conceptual.

I'm not one of those who believes that if you have a message send a telegram. Music, art and literature make statements not in newspapers or textbooks, and The Electric Petals bring up a range of topics. While not every track is #1-with-a-bullet-stuff, the original songs are vastly rewarding. 'Polynation' represents SA rock in the way that certain other albums are signposts for other musical eras and styles.

The Electric Petals are firmly entrenched in both their society and their world. They know their rock past, they do their own style of homage to Beatles and Dylan, and the lengthy list of friends shows they have a sense of community. Relationships abound in the music and in the credits. Two of the CD's catchiest songs thank James Phillips and Jennifer Ferguson ('Thank You for the Book James' and 'Sister Love').

The Electric Petals were Ajay, Angus Rose, and Danny de Wet. Danny currently drums in Wonderboom. Among the familiar additional musicians and friends of the band listed in the credits are: Ampie Omo, Johnny Blundell, Dave Ornellas and Ron Bretell. Members of many bands sang in the "Hooligan Choir" in 'Rainy Day Women' and the closing number '(This Isn't) Walt Disney': No Friends of Harry, Magic Cactus, Sugardrive and others. This isn't a rock album made by committee, however, it is a high-quality work by a trio of guys who have many friends.

'(This Isn't) Walt Disney' closes the CD with snatches of lines from world-wide rock hits by groups such as T-Rex, David Bowie and The Stones. We begin the CD in South Africa, and end in the world.

The cover photo of an apparently albino black girl is also profound, and the album title itself is evocative of the saying, "A world in one country". One could also say that this band is of South Africa, and of the world.

I heartily recommend this CD, even to those who have never heard of The Eight Legged Groove Machine and who don't know South Africa's strong rock traditions. I'll never learn all there is about SA's music scene and musical history, but my knowledge would not be complete without this amazing album.

Kurt Shoemaker, SA Rockdigest #102, April 2001

All info supplied by John Samson, May 2002


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