Squeal - Civilized?


1999, Gallo, GWVCD 16



  1. Introduction
  2. Civilized
  3. Hey Yah
  4. Some Are Born
  5. Happy For You
  6. Shake Down
  7. Higher
  8. Who's Asking Why
  9. Juvenile
  10. You Shine
  11. Sky Blue

    Hidden bonus track:
    What'cha Gonna Do?


  • David Birch: vocal, guitar
  • Brett Barnes: bass, vocals
  • Bruce Baker: Drums

  • Angus Keer: violin, viola
  • Megan McRae: backing vocals


Squeal's 'Civilized?' has an ironic cover photo: Birch, Barnes, and Baker wearing suits. These ous are civilized? Don't be so sure. Rock can be a harsh mistress who eats her young. She makes musicians sign contracts with the devil before they board faulty airplanes. So rock and gentility do not often skip along hand-in-hand. Squeal civilized? You can dress them up, but can they go out on the town in Durban without making a Big Noise?

The teenager trapped in my somewhat older hide gravitates to the speedier, harder tunes on 'Civilized?'. Yet, Squeal, and band-leader David Birch, can sing and play a slow rock number and make it work -- and this songwriting and performing talent, playing effective slow rock songs, is where Squeal parts from the gimokes of a couple other big SA bands. Bassist Brett Barnes is back. He played on the first Squeal CD, 'Long Pig', took a break on the second, 'Man and Woman', and is back with the deep bottom here. Bruce Baker does the drumming and pounds out the signature Squeal style perfectly.

The 'Introduction' track has a nice and amusing message, but being an exchange between NASA Ground Control and an astronaut in orbit, not a song, it is something I usually skip. It is interesting hearing Russian and American accents done by South Africans, however. The voice of NASA will always have a Texas accent, I guess. Though it seems that whenever British actors do American accents they become Texans, as when American actors do British accents they always end up being either Cockney or Constipated.

The title track of 'Civilized?' jumps us into the gig with a suitably raw intro and drives into a ruthless song pierced by nice-sounding harsh guitar. Who wants Squeal to be genteel?

Like Squeal's previous releases, 'Civilized?' has memorable thumping tunes interspersed among evocative slow-tempo to mid-tempo songs that rock, even in the seemingly quieter moments, as does 'Shake Down' and its singable refrain. Squeal albums are marvels of pacing in that the mountains accent the valleys and the valleys prove that mountains don't exist without the valleys. This pacing talent is explained by Squeal being in touch with their audience. A slower tune gets people close, then makes the big bang of the next raucous tune more obvious. Yet it all has to flow, as does this CD.

'Civilized?' is streamlined rock, but not in the sense of simple and repetitious. There's ample guitar playing, strong up-front bass, and pounding drums on this disc. This is streamlined rock in the sense that each song has a destination, without forgetting that the trip itself should be as fun and purposeful as the destination. 'Juvenile' is a serious pounder of this sort, while 'Higher' strides in a cocky strut.

This is a wild rock album, but is Squeal civilized? Well, they are housebroken, but don't let the suits fool you. They're still wild men playing drums and guitars, making music for dancing around big fires.

My CD jewel case also has a cool SA flag and One World sticker on it with the sensible, sane, and civilized advice: Buy South African Music.

Kurt Shoemaker, SA Rockdigest#72, April 2001

All info supplied by John Samson, October 2002

South Africa's Rock Legends
South African Rock Digest