Bettie Serveert | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bettie Serveert

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It seems a bit pointless for Carol van Dyk to kick off Bettie Serveert's sixth studio album, Attagirl (Minty Fresh/Palomine), by imploring, "Don't give up on me." By now it's likely that the only people listening are loyal fans who wouldn't dream of abandoning their fave Dutch band. For the faithful, Peter Visser's roundabout guitar noodling and van Dyk's vocal variations--from husky to chirpy, from rumination to recrimination--encapsulate basic truths about maintaining an artsy lifestyle outside the mainstream and into middle age. But now there's a trace of self-doubt in van Dyk's stubborn persona, as if she's concerned that it might not be wise to stick with her. Attagirl is the band at its most modest, with a handful of sharp pop songs that have clearly defined structures and only the occasional moment of dissonance and improvisation. But after corseting itself in John Parish's claustrophobic chamber pop on Private Suit (2000) and letting it all hang out on the sprawling, Visser-produced Log 22 (2003), Bettie Serveert's finally found a workable middle ground. Which does mean that, except for the faux Middle Eastern adornments on "Greyhound Song," the record sounds safe. But a climactic cover of Bright Eyes' overwrought "Lover I Don't Have to Love" suggests the band will continue to fumble toward fortuitous accidents long after Conor Oberst has taken to recording tasteful explorations of the American folk tradition with Daniel Lanois. Braam, the Nomad Planets, and Tristen open. Sat 6/25, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12 in advance, $14 at the door.

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