Even though an album review should really concentrate on the CD itself, I have never been able to write one without reflecting on my overall experience and impression of the band, and in the case of Die Antwoord, their explosive career and it’s history, I really believe that $O$ requires a bit of background discussion.
This is partly due to the fact that Die Antwoord is still largely misunderstood by many people who have only heard the songs and seen the videos, and not seen or read any interviews or have followed the adventures of Ninja (aka Watkin Tudor Jones) and Yo-landi Visser over the years, as I have.
I admit I have been fascinated by Mr Jones’ work since my school days when his first major project Max Normal was the underground flavour of the month, and followed him through the following creations of The Constructus Corporation (where Yolandi first joined him), the less successful Maxnormal.tv, and a few other forgettable collaborations. It was clear that the man has trouble sticking with one thing for an extended period of time, or is even possibly a little schizophrenic. This is why I think quite a few people in the audience with me for their debut performance at Ramfest 3 were a bit doubtful about whether this new venture would last. At first glance, it mostly seemed to rely on shock value, but I have to admit, at that show and upon receiving downloads of their tracks over the next year, my head was nodding and the songs got stuck in my head, always a positive sign.
The shock factor is why I think many people (I would say particularly of the older generation) do not appreciate their now international fame. The lyrics are crude and somewhat juvenile, the outfits outrageous and the backing tracks are kind of obnoxious in a way and we are unsure about South Africa being represented in this fashion, but I think many fail to realize how much of it is pure dedication to performance art in the knowledge that controversy sells. Let me put it this way – Die Antwoord are actually genius in the same way that Sascha Baron Cohen rocked the World with Borat and Bruno. They are characters that allow these artists to unleash a blast of musical chaos on an unsuspecting audience.
Despite staying in character all the time, I am interested to see many interviews where Ninja and Yo-landi have been completely straight forward about how they tried so many approaches to the music industry and just happened to get extremely lucky with Die Antwoord. Does this mean all the attention is less than deserved? Not at all. The precise reason why they are such a sensation the world over is that they have blown everyones minds with something so completely fresh and original (I actually thought zef culture was purely something they came up with, but I’m told it did exist prior to them).
My only reservation at this point is what if this is all just a gimmicky fad? As in, will audiences will still be interested in zef-rap-rave music in a couple years time? Hell, will the trio (including the seemingly ever changing DJ Hi-Tek) still be interested or will they take the risk of changing up the game? And succeed? It all seems so chaotic at the moment, I mean it took forever for them to actually release this CD, and they keep talking about various pipe dream plans, it looks like there is still a lot of indecisiveness present.
In the end it doesn’t matter what the future holds. Right now we have an awesome, memorable album that will be synonymous with 2010, the year in which South Africa rocked the world. It has all the now classic tracks that YouTubed them into (in)famousness and for all of you who by this stage have gotten sick of those, it has some even fresher tracks worth having on CD format.
Ultimately, they are a group you either love or hate, but you can’t deny their impact, so get the album even if it is just for interest’s sake. I hope they are able to continue a decent legacy, but if not I reckon you will still want to show this album to your grandkids one day if only for nostalgia’s sake. (In the future they’ll be tainted by way more fucked up things).
Review by Ian Belknap
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