Since her departure from Dutch prog-Metal outfit The Gathering back in 2007, Anneke Van Giersbergen has pursued a hard working musical journey, including guest appearances with Anathema and Within Temptation. Despite such notable cameos, her main focus has been her solo work, in partnership with her hubby the drummer Rob Snijders initially using the monicker Agua de Anique and now under her own name.
'Drive' is her fourth studio album, and from opener 'We Live On' through to the final notes of 'The Best Is Yet To Come' proves to be her most accessible work to date. It's the usual mix of sensitive ballads and rock tunes, but this time with an added pop sheen.
Now this might be a real turn off for some folk, although if like this pop-tart, you can appreciate ABBA as much as Alter Bridge, then you'll love this album for its mix of pop sensibilities with rock instrumentation.
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This approach is no better demonstrated than on the first two tracks 'We Live On' and 'Treat Me Like A Lady'. Both tunes are fine examples of what used to be called power-pop, especially the latter song which marries an instantly memorable melody with intelligent lyrics. Rock ballad 'She' keeps up the quality, and then unfortunately things take a dive with the title song, which is the kind of clichéd piece that 12-year-olds could enjoy. It boasts a refrain of "Aye aye ah aye oh" which is all one needs to know.
Thank heavens for the CD player's skip button, for that takes us to what I regard as a real highlight of the album, 'My Mother Said'. It's a beautifully sung piano based ballad, which paints an evocative picture of parent and child love. If this was an Adele song it would be all over the radio.
There is one song on 'Drive' that strays from the commercial groove and it's called ' Mental Jungle'. This track blends Asian/Arabic sounds with traditional Metal instrumentation and this clashing of cultures makes for an exhilarating listen.
The quality of the songwriting on this album would be sadly wasted if the performances were not up to scratch and luckily they are superb. The quality of playing, from her regular touring band, is top notch, and packed with feeling. This is, in no small part, due to the fact that this album was recorded, in the main, live in the studio, with the musicians interacting together. This makes a refreshing change from the sterile nature of much modern music where each player emails in his part from some far flung studio and makes for an album with a nice organic groove. Producer Arno Krabman deserves much credit too, for capturing these natural sounds.
Anneke herself is blessed with a truly lovely voice, and is able to mix purity of tone with ballsiness. These qualities enhance the best songs here, and save the weaker tracks from mediocraty.
Overall, apart from a couple of clunkers, the songs on 'Drive' are enjoyably catchy, with much to enjoy both musically and lyrically. It's not a heavy album, filled with big statements, and that's no bad thing. There is a place for serious music that tackles big issues, but there's also a need for albums that just makes the listener feel good, and 'Drive' is exactly that kind of record.
It's not an album that'll be played every week, but when the depression hits hard and the mood needs lifting, 'Drive' is definitely an album that's going to be returned to. It ain't perfect, but it's damned enjoyable and fully deserves the number of pints imbibed by yours truly while writing this. Four pints please, stout yeoman of the bar!
1 We Live On (03:41)
2 Treat Me Like A Lady (04:00)
3 She (03:08)
4 Drive (03:43)
5 My Mother Said (03:21)
6 Forgive Me (03:11)
7 You Will Never Change (04:03)
8 Mental Jungle (03:44)
9 Shooting For The Stars (04:33)
10 The Best Is Yet To Come (04:04)
Anneke van Giersbergen - vocals, guitar
Gijs Coolen – guitar
Ferry Duijsens – guitar
Joost van Haaren – bass
Annelies Kuijsters - keyboards, backing vocals
Rob Snijders - drums