- 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