Album Reviews

Arno Carstens – The Hello Goodbye Boys

(Sony BMG) UK release date: 12 September 2005


Arno Carstens - The Hello Goodbye Boys “And the award for The Band Whose Name Is Most Likely To Cause Embarrassment At Work When You Surf The Internet Looking For Their Website goes to… Springbok Nude Girls!” Okay, so there never was such an award, but if there had been, it would have been just another to add to the collection of Arno Carstens – formerly the frontman of South Africa’s biggest rock band.

His debut solo album, Another Universe, continued the trend set by “The Nudies” by selling copious quantities in The Land Of The Bok (definitely), as well as in South African colonies such as Shepherd’s Bush (probably).

While the success of Carstens’ follow-up, The Hello Goodbye Boys, may be assured in his homeland and the Southern Hemisphere-occupied West London, it appears that his record company and management have decided that now is the time for him to do what pretty much no South African band/artist has succeeded in doing before – break big in Britain beyond the expats.

The good news for the strategists is that The Hello Goodbye Boys is plenty good enough to achieve their aims. As with almost any frontman-turned-solo-artist, Carsten favours a more commercially acceptable approach than his band of yore, but there’s an edginess to much of his string-laden, semi-acoustic, passionately sung pop/rock that prevents it from falling down a hole marked “Bland And Radio-Friendly”.

There’s a wide variety on offer here too. Where the likes of Bad City, Life Forever and Kites are jaunty, upbeat, guitar-led pop, We Are Satellites and the title track are altogether darker, with clever guitar touches and strings creating a backdrop of brooding.

The Act is a slow-building anthemic number that rocks nicely towards the end; Birds And The Bees moves into psychedelic indie territory รก la Inspiral Carpets; while Love The Whole World and The Man And The Lion both benefit from some cool percussion and demonstrate that Carstens should perhaps be a bit more daring in showing off his “African-ness”.

Of course, everything is not always so hunky dory. Opening number Feel It is a tad too middle-aged and Nashvillian for these ears, while first single Hole Heart and C N End (is that like B B See?) move into worryingly nondescript, pulse-slowing territory.

Overall, however, there’s sufficient quality here to suggest that Carstens has more than a hope of adding some much-needed excitement to a singer/songwriter genre that is perpetually overstuffed with insipidity. A word of warning though. Watch that web-surfing at work. His backing band is called New Porn


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Arno Carstens – The Hello Goodbye Boys