A certain image comes to mind when someone mentions Van Coke Kartel. It likely involves growling guitars, sweaty, pulsating live sets and numerous tattoos. What this image does not involve, however, are Lana Del Rey’s flower crowns, The Beatles’ bowl-cuts or James Brown’s shiny suits. Fans will need to prepare themselves to rethink their idea of VCK entirely when listening to their latest EP, “Energie” – an eclectic collection of covers from music’s biggest names.
The title track of the EP draws its name from Afrikaans rock legend Johannes Kerkorrel’s track, ‘Energie’. This cover helps the EP come into its own, trading Kerkorrel’s surf-rock atmosphere for a sound that diehard VCK fans will recognise. The song lives up to its name with its energetic re-imagining of accompaniment and vocals, making it the EP’s highlight.
The band adds a more fast-paced, animated spirit to their rock-fuelled cover of ‘Help!’. Van Coke’s & Kossew’s voices add an even more beseeching quality to the song, and although it’s certainly not the first time a rock rendition of a Beatles track has been done, VCK manage to keep it fresh with the vibrant guitar accompaniment they’ve added to the song.
The touching tone of the EP is contrasted by the band’s cover of James Brown’s ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’, which truly showcases Brown as he has never been heard before. They subvert everything that is familiar about the track and reinvent it completely to fit their personal style. The guitar solo towards the end of the track pulls it together and helps turn it into a radio-ready hit all over again.
VCK puts their own creative spin on the Thin Lizzy track ‘Got to Give It Up’, removing the song’s original intro and banging the door right down with gritty guitars and heartfelt vocals.
The band’s cover of indie-pop nymph Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’ takes what was already a raw, honest track and rounds it off with a gravelly guitar intro. Del Rey’s husky vocals are replaced by a more longing, solid performance by Francois van Coke. Yet, even with the absence of Del Rey’s breathiness, Van Coke still manages to capture the lulling calmness she originally brought to the song. This track is far removed from the VCK repertoire as fans know it, yet it is somehow fitting if one considers Van Coke’s recent solo success with tracks like ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ and ‘Behoort Aan Niemand Nie’. The track fades out with whining guitars reminiscent of The Beatles’ Let It Be-era, a fitting comparison in light of the cover of the abovementioned ‘Help!’.
It’s uncertain whether “Energie” will appeal to VCK’s existing fan base, but the EP does show that they can adapt their sound to suit almost any genre – a feat that should make a band revered in any fan’s eyes.
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Listen to ‘Energie’ below on Deezer.