It was bound to happen at some point – a solo project for South Africa’s biggest rock superstar was inevitable. To say it was highly-anticipated is a major understatement. Francois van Coke, frontman and lead singer of powerhouses Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel has released his self-titled solo album, and it is every bit as good as you’d expect it to be.
It was recorded at four different studios in Cape Town – Tommy Tucker, Blakk Productions, Bellville Studios and Soft Light City all playing host to his musical genius being captured. A string of big names also feature in the production credits with Johnny de Ridder, Theo Crous, Fred Den Hartog, Francois de Klerk and Rudolph Willemse all adding their personal expertise to the work.
From bar 1 of the first song, ‘Behoort Aan Niemand Nie’ it is explicitly clear that Van Coke is still firmly rooted in the rock ‘n’ roll heart that brought him to where he is today. Heavily distorted guitars and a solid beat form the base of the opening track, setting the tone for what else is to come.
The rest of the album has varying degrees of hardness with quieter songs dotted between those heavier ones, brilliantly displaying the two sides to the muso. But something that is never lacking is a degree of power, whether that power is expressed in guitar solos and mega amps or quiet contemplative melodies is the only variant and it’s a joy to explore.
There are one or two very unexpected tracks like ‘Die Skip’ which has more of an indie feel than anything he has released before. The song features long-time friend and collaborator Laudo Liebenberg, one of many big names making an appearance on the album. Arno Carstens appears in the slower, melancholic track ‘Ek Weet Nie’ and Karen Zoid in their massive successful collaboration ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’. Top that off with Die Heuwels Fantasties’ feature on ‘Neonlig’ and he’s brought almost every heavyweight in Afrikaans rock to the party.
As always, lyrics are packed full of biblical references, ‘Waarheid, Weg en Lewe’ being case in point. “Ek soek die waarheid/ Ek soek die weg/ Ek soek die lewe” referencing Jesus’ famous words “I am the way, the truth and the life.” As someone with a religious background, I find these references incredibly interesting, but understandably, it may not be the same for everyone. As poetry though, the work as a whole is as potent as always, and you could easily lose yourself in the simple beauty of the lyrics alone.
Altogether, it is clear that the man is getting older, and in some ways the age has brought a softer feel to him and his music. It doesn’t feel as angry, I don’t expect him to be plastered on stage, screaming his lungs out and embodying everything that is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll anymore. But you know what, I dig that – I respect the courage it takes to be vulnerable and though I’m sure there will be haters longing for the early 2004 Fokofpolisiekar frontman/revolutionary leader but I’m not one of them.
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