Recorded live at various shows throughout 2018, The Buckfever Underground’s latest album Last Days of Beautiful is a noble attempt at unity and reconciliation that just falls short of its potential.
Formed in 1997 by vocalist Toast Coetzer and former bassist/guitarist Gilad Hockman, The Buckfever Underground’s blending of English and Afrikaans poetry with experimental music has seen them garner a slew of accolades, including their third album Saves named among Mail & Guardian’s top 10 SA albums of the decade (2000-2010).
With moody Doors-esque experimental music as the foundation, Last Days of Beautiful weaves its way through our colourful continent, Coetzer spinning stories of forgotten past and ignored present, trying to bring a divided human race together.
While the band have the best of intentions, the world they look to create is a Utopian ideal that over-simplifies the journey towards prosperity.
“Pay Back the Money,” for instance, paints a beautiful, if often awkwardly phrased, picture of a nation where people support one another, are morally sound and ethically grounded: a nation that can thrive in spite of inept leadership. But truth is that the leaders the track urges you to ignore are the people making it damn-near-impossible.
While mostly political there are also numbers like “Sit Dit Af,” a piece of anti-smart phone propaganda that will have you saying “Ok boomer” as you hit the skip button. It’s a song that relies on tired stereotypes of screen-zombies that don’t notice the world around them but, if you look through half of Cape Town’s Instagram feeds you’ll see that’s far from the truth.
But it isn’t all bad. The Buckfever Underground manage to create a soundscape that evokes pictures of long drives through the Karoo and late-night backpacker conversations along the Garden Route. Coetzer’s performance comes into its own when he switches to Afrikaans as he shows an intuitive understanding of the lyrical potential of the language, especially in the near-hour long “Eating the Land” which journeys through South Africa and beyond. It’s an epic that traces the good and the bad, the charming and the devastating and ultimately leaves you with an unmistakable sense of pride.
While Last Days of Beautiful might be a bit problematic in its ideals and sometimes clumsy in its delivery, it can’t be denied that it’s filled to the absolute brim with South African pride.