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Global Charming
Mediocre, Brutal Richard Foster , October 15th, 2020 08:45

A debut from Amsterdam-based indie rockers Global Charming proves a short, sharp shock for Richard Foster

Amsterdam, once the magic centre of the world, now a tourist city on the lookout for a new role, especially in these changing times. Recently eclipsed by Rotterdam’s continuing, ever-shifting musical carnival, Amsterdam’s alternative music scene has nevertheless been quietly bubbling along this past few years, with the likes of Canshaker Pi, Personal Trainer, Soon, Apneu and most notably Pip Blom keeping the flame alight. All these acts have offered up quizzical, inclusive, sometimes collective strains of pop music. And now there’s Global Charming, who with their short, concise debut record, hint at something else again.

It wouldn’t be a review that made a (tangential) reference of Amsterdam if it didn’t contain a certain world weariness. Amsterdam, the place that’s seen it all, much better than you ever will… I could be very naughty and hone in on this record as an example of that weariness. We could point to the sense of noncommittal cynicism that the title and the deliberately nondescript, scribbled artwork give; maybe the feeling of a band getting their punches in first, but expending as little effort as they can whilst doing so. Or the fact that there are nine tracks that, collectively, barely make twenty-five minutes of music. The sort of typical Amsterdam rip off a lot of my Dutch friends would roll their eyes knowingly at.

That would be unfair, as they, and all the acts mentioned are good, well-intentioned people working in a much restricted and reshaped city landscape – certainly in the centre, where the squats are now comfortable “city break” hotels and brown cafes make way for “shoppes” stocked full of artisan muffins. The only constant are the idiot patrols of (fellow) Brits largin’ it up, revelling in freedoms they’re happy to suppress in their homeland.

Plus, the band stresses, this record is actually about boredom. Even so, Global Charming have made a record that is enjoyably unsettling whilst having a very familiar, even comforting sound. This should come as no surprise for those who note the recording studio is Jan Schenk’s, of the late, great Amsterdam band, Hospital Bombers. This may explain the warm feel and even number of superficial sonic references to a particular strain of American alternative rock. Yes, Global Charming’s music sometimes nods to the passing shades of acts such as the Feelies, Pylon, Camper Van Beethoven, or Malkmus. Maybe there’s even a hint of a sigh from an early Jonathan Richman, too, who’s just walkin’ down the street...

There have also been comparisons with Rotterdam’s Lewsberg, but - outside a very Lewsberg guitar solo (which could also be a very Velvet Underground solo) - there is little to read into the connection. Oh, to be such a new band and be burdened with all this analysis and forethought, before they are even properly out of the traps.

So what is it about them that has meant their debut has rarely been out of the CD player this past few weeks? For one thing there is the brevity of the record - it is very refreshing to hear a band who think they have said everything they need to say on a subject in the space of a minute, such as on ‘My Turn to Sleep’. There is also a sharpness of observation and deadpan wit that they share with the likes of Black Country, New Road; both acts being able to confidently deliver a stripped back sound and gnomic lyrics that suggest so much more.

Their music is presented almost like a neat architect’s drawing, which, again, is somehow very comforting. Within this pristine playground, Global Charming plant earworms that can drive you to distraction. There are the gloopy noises that add an indefinable “something” to Heal and ‘Soft Fruit’, or the repetitive lyrical gambits that regularly crop up; ‘nothing for you / nothing for me” in ‘Soft Fruit’ can follow you around all day if you let it. The sharpness of the opener and single, ‘Office Hell’, with its funny rejoinders and stop-start vibe, is also delightful. One suspects the phrase, “Office hell / I blame myself” could even become a form of greeting... The listener gets the feeling there is something very profound being said, even when there probably isn’t. Doe maar normaal, jongens...

They have a way with a lick too. ‘Curveball’ is a lovely riff driven pop song that really has something of Camper Van about it, not that that should ever be a problem. And 'No Compromise' is a rousing rock track with a great shouted chorus. Trump card in their pack is ‘Celebration’, which initially bounces around like a well-oiled take on Roadrunner, until another shouted heralds that not-very-Lewsberg guitar run. It’s great fun and further bolster to a very enjoyable - if all-too-short record.