Feature

Relive The Album: Springbok Nude Girls discovered who they were on AfterlifeSatisfaction, and it remains their most important record because of that

A green eye staring at you. The membrane of its eyelid exposed, veins varicose and blood red. Eyelashes curling like worms. The iris a perfect mirror image of itself, white light reflecting outwards. It’s the ugliest eye you’ve ever seen, but you cannot look away.

This is the cover of Springbok Nude Girls’ 1997 album AfterlifeSatisfaction. 25 years after its release and it remains an iconic image – one of those unforgettable album artworks that becomes synonymous with the sound of a record. Like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, the geometric light refraction a symbol of the album’s omnipresent space-synths. Or The Clash’s London Calling, where Joe Strummer smashes his guitar to the ground in recognition of the unadulterated punk-rock that was to come.

As though plucked straight out of the afterlife, fleshy and corpse-like, Afterlife’s eye is a portal to a murky underworld, guided by frenzied guitars and chilling vocal echoes. Opener “Interlude” is an abrasive entry point – 12 seconds of Arno Carstens screaming. It’s hard to make out what he’s saying, not that it matters. His terrorizing growls feel symbolic; symbolic of a band who didn’t want to make music for money or success. Everything the Springbok Nude Girls did in their early career was deliberately anti-establishment, and AfterlifeSatisfaction was just the beginning.

Speaking to Arno a while back, he told me that Afterlife felt like the band’s arrival – a culmination of everything they had tried to achieve on their debut album, Neanderthal 1. Afterlife was only their second full-length offering, but already the band had found their sound with startling clarity, and they were now celebrating that discovery. Unrelenting bass lines, dizzying horn solos, indulgent vocal lines, moments of mania balanced by moments of euphoria. Everything we love about the Nude Girls was encompassed in this one record, and it remains their most important work to date because of that.

Fan favourites “Genie” and “Little” are understated in their feelings of melancholy, hinging on spiky guitar rhythms and the rapture of Arno Carsten’s decadent performance. There’s a gratuitous kind of hedonism that pervades this record, as in tracks like “Baby Murdered Me” and “I Love You”, seeking pleasure over comfort, as the Nude Girls have always done.

“Rabbit” is maybe the heaviest of their attacks, the last 60 seconds an untamed wrecking ball, whilst “Grrr” is a far cry from the soft instrumentals of a track like “Fire Bow”. They are as playful as they are restless. Almost every track starts soft and ends with a fireworks display, the drums a mess, the trumpets even messier, the guitars together with Arno’s voice an uncontrollable blaze.

Whenever I’ve spoken to Arno about his music, the topic of Afterlife almost always comes up, which I suppose is testament to its magnitude. I remember he once said to me, “We crafted something very specific on that record, that I don’t think we’ll ever be able to recreate,” and it really stuck with me. To think that this record can never be replicated, that it captures an untouchable moment in the band’s history – that is what makes it eternally precious.

It was ritualistic what the Springbok Nude Girls were doing, like a shaman harnessing his power. They brought a disturbed kind of energy to their writing, breaking songs down to build them up again, relishing in the way things fell apart. Still, somehow, they found their way back towards beauty, every time.