SCHËPPE SIWEN - Wat bleift

Schëppe Siwen - Wat bleift

10 songs
33:43 minutes
***** **


Music in Luxembourgish has had a downright revival, with lately especially hip-hop artists using this language to convey their often very insightful lyrics. Too bad I am not a fan of the genre. Then there are of course local pioneers Toxkäpp!, and lately also bands like Benny and the Bugs, Dëppegéisser and Schëppe Siwen. These latter acts are more or less at home in the folk genre, with the latter coming back with their third album Wat bleift.

Schëppe Siwen have been founded ten years ago, and over time they grew as a band, so that currently there are eight musicians in the line-up. The vocalist also plays the violin, then there is a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, an accordionist and three trumpeters. The band labels their sound folk punk, and it’s a testament to the band’s skills that you can play some kind of punk without often having to rely on an electric guitar.

The opener 5 vir 7 is a nice pun, like it’s 5 to 12, except because their name translates to Ace of Seven, probably the lowest card in any game of cards, they used the seven instead of the twelve. This is an instrumental piece, too long for an intro, but meant instead of setting the tone for what is to come. The folk instruments take a central role, and the arrangements are actually quite perfect, much better than I anticipated. The first vocal track is Looss alles zréck, starting with a Western guitar, before the band joins in in that high-speed track. A guest flautist adds a folk touch. The vocals are surprisingly harsh, make me consider Schëppe Siwen as Luxembourg’s answer to Gogol Bordello. Although the band sees itself mostly inspired by Celtic folk, there is often a definite Balkan beat flair, which is due to the high pace that is running through the album from the beginning to nearly the end. The title track follows in that vein, before things become more folk and less punk with the revolutionary sounding Hief deng Fauscht. And then we get another (semi-)instrumental track with D’Auer leeft, which only at the end finds the musicians joining in the chorus. Weltrees is a sun flavoured piece of music, full of good humour and due to its topic of traveling to exotic places, it naturally with a reggae part. De klenge Männchen feels like folk punk teaming up with AC/DC, before the band get back to its upbeat folk punk with Fett ewech and De leschten Danz. The album ends with the incredibly cheesy ballad Stärenhimmel, where I like the piano part and the brass section, but the violin arrangements, the children’s choir and the dual male/female vocals are just too much to stomach. I rarely came across a more saccharine coated piece of music. Too bad, because the lyrics are about losing somebody, and we all know how bad that can feel, but this is still a song I need to skip.

So from a musical point of view, there’s not much bad to be said about Wat bleift. I was surprised at the powerful and transparent production, the professional arrangements and the drive of it all. Many local folk bands could learn from Schëppe Siwen in that regard. But unfortunately there are also some things that need criticising. The lyrics are mostly vague, and when they are not vague, they actually irritate me. On Weltrees, the band sings about we should travel all over the world before climate change has ruined the planet, forgetting all the while that airplane travelling is one of the evils that add to the carbon footprint of the human race. Even worse is De klenge Männchen, a song to lyrics of the late writer Pol Pütz. This song laments the fact that Luxembourgish women don’t want to give birth to four of five children anymore, and that in a hundred years, the last Luxembourger can be visited in a museum. Maybe this kind of satire was acceptable when Pütz was still around, but nowadays this reflects the warnings of the radical right that foreigners are swarming the country and that Luxembourg(ish/ers) will one day soon disappear. I am quite certain that Schëppe Siwen are not right wing, and that makes it so strange that they chose that text. All in all I would have wished for sharper lyrics, the way Tëschegas for instance have done repeatedly in the past.

What remains is a short yet musically very pleasant album with a vocalist that adds grit to the music, and an accordionist and trumpeters that add some of the best folk moments I have ever heard in a local band. I am certain that this is the kind of band that kills it live on stage, but they also managed to capture their energy on their new album. In accordance with the band's name, we leave this record at seven points out ten.

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