Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The EuropeCrazy Hall of Fame: September 2007

Clouseau. No, not the bumbling inspector from The Pink Panther films, but a Flemish band which has now been around for 20 years. What better celebration than an induction into our Hall of Fame.

Once upon a time Clouseau had five members, then their line up reduced to three. Today, Clouseau is a duo made up of two brothers, lead singer Koen Wauters and his brother Kris. When Koen and Kris aren’t making music, they can be found rally driving, or presenting hit Belgian TV shows like "Idol". (Belgium’s answer to Ant and Dec!!)

I became aware of Clouseau during the late 80s. They came to my attention again in 1991 when they represented Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest with the excellent "Geef Het Op". Clouseau recorded a couple of albums in English (I’ve got "In Every Small Town" which is actually very good), but their attempts to break into the international market sadly failed.

My next encounter with Clouseau’s music was in 1995 on my first trip to Belgium. They had just released "Oker" which I still consider their best album. One hearing of "Swentibold" and I was hooked. A brassy treat from a hot summer, and for me it’s Clouseau at their very best. "Oker" was a grown-up collection of upbeat songs and ballads, and there is hardly a bad track on it. "Passie" became a massive hit in the Netherlands, but this turned out to be an albatross around their neck as in that country they are viewed differently, more
as a ‘ballad band’.

"Oker" was the last album to feature founder member Bob Savenberg, whom many viewed as the heart and soul of the band. On the follow-up "Adrenaline" his absence was clearly felt. There were more and more ballads, and only "Nobelprijs" and "Je Bent Niets" stood out for me.

By 1999’s "In Stereo" the formula was working once again. Crowd-pleasing middle of the road pop, with more uptempo songs but the album’s defining song was another ballad, a Dutch-language cover version of "Have I Told You Lately".

Rather than mellow in their ‘old age’, Clouseau found a harder edge on 2001’s "En Dans" but it was a lot more playful too, and is possibly my second favourite album of theirs after "Oker".

A further two albums have been released since then: "Vanbinnen" and this year’s "Vonken & Vuur", both of which continue to see Clouseau go from strength to strength with their mix of uptempo songs with anthemic choruses, and swaying ballads. Their musical formula is simple, but it has certainly worked in Belgium for the last 20 years, and there’s no reason why they can’t keep on doing it for a long time yet.

Check out the blog in a couple of weeks for my recommended Clouseau playlist.

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