- David Birch: Guitar & vocals
- Brett Barnes: Bass
- Robbie Boake: Guitar & vocals
- Barry van Zyl: Drums
The basic rock unit of drums and wires (to steal a phrase) is still
going strong in South Africa under the name of Squeal. Squeal proves to my satisfaction that there is still plenty of room within the basic rock unit of three guitars and a drum set for creative rockin' tunes.
All of the songs on 'Man and Woman' are winners, even though I have
personal favorites, and even though the final cut does take some time to build towards a sudden flash of guitar fury to close the set. Throughout, fine hard rock combines with intriguing lyrics to create memorable songs on this CD, Squeal's second release.
To my ear, the album hits a high and mighty three-song plateau near the
middle, my favorite tracks on the CD. All of the songs are real and genuine rock, however. I can glance down the track listing and hear each and every chorus in my mind, they are all that catchy.
The rave-up middle three are 'Man and Woman' (one expects the title
track to be good, doesn't one?), 'One Fine Man', and 'Long Pig', and my
preferred two are 'Man and Woman' and 'Long Pig' -- two great songs that thunder from the speakers. I can't narrow it down from there, but would rather back up to say that from 'Necessary' to 'Fire', inclusive, there are ten tracks of as pure and basic rock music as one can find anywhere from... Albania to Zimbabwe, with stops at SA and USA in between.
I can't say the album builds to the three middle three songs because it
starts right out with a rocker called 'Necessary' that has a natural hook one can sing along with the first time around. The second song, 'Critical Mass', is a harder tune with a nicely grinding chorus. So this is not an album of a few good songs, but a consistent rock album.
Next comes 'Lost and Lonely' which slows and softens the ambiance
somewhat, and 'Head Up'. Both of these are hooky rock numbers, yet while they are certainly not filler, they are not so all-out in joy and fury as what follows.
At this point, enter a strummed intro followed by the deadly and
ominous rhythm of the track titled 'Man and Woman' and the CD jumps from Excellent and Very Good Indeed to Scintillating and Wow.
Track 6, 'One Fine Man' lopes along, ever slowly building until it
comes to a suitable Big Finish. It nicely bridges 'Man and Woman' and 'Long Pig'. If I were a European, I'd probably still enjoy 'Long Pig', but then I've learned to laugh at myself -- which means I'm either preempting other people, or just joining their laughter. Anyway, this song is full of righteous rock anger and rock fury and is a joy to hear.
After 'Long Pig' the tempo slows somewhat to a rock steady 'Sun Rain'. Solid rock, but a bit of a needed breather after 'Long Pig'. 'Happy
Together' is an uplifting tune that soars, complete with "la-las" that fit naturally.
I'm glad to be able to say that I own both 'Man and Woman' and 'Long
Pig', and that their third CD, 'Civilized?' is somewhere between One World in Pretoria and Texas as I type. I also have the Squeal downloads from http://www.friedjam.com and will buy the promised EPs as they appear. All in all, I'm a Squeal fan, and I want to go to a show and buy a teeshirt. How about Squeal coming to South By Southwest, the Austin, Texas, music get-together between talent and suits, y'all? You can crash at my place and we'll have a braai.
I don't think I'll upset the rest of the band when I say that David
Birch seems to be the leader of this democracy. Birch sings, plays guitar, and wrote seven of the ten songs (his lyrics are not only intriguing, as mentioned, but intelligent). He co-wrote two other songs with Brett Barnes (bass and vocals), and one with Robbie Boake (Guitar and Vocals), as well as producing this disc. Birch is also the one member from the original line-up -- or as he said in an Amuzine interview, something to the effect that one-third of the original band is still involved with Squeal.
Oh, and the guy getting the workout on the drums is Barry Van Zyl --
just stand back and let him work -- he's right on time all the time.
Together these four guys made a CD of pure and basic rock, no keyboards
in sight or sound. If you're a rock purist, take a listen to one of my
favorite South African rock discs. 'Man and Woman' is rock for the world, perfect for braais or barbecues, rugby or football games, The Cape or The Hill Country.
And finally, isn't the name 'Squeal' just about the coolest name for a
P.S. Did you notice that not once did I use the words "anthem" or
"anthemic"? Many of Squeal's songs are that, but maybe hard rock, by
definition, should be anthemic?
Kurt Shoemaker, SA Rockdigest#72, August 2000