Those Brits really know how to throw historical shade, cooking up a host of put downs for their Dutch political and economic rivals in the 17th century that are still in use today. But the time is long overdue to reclaim these expressions and use them in more positive ways. Here ‘double Dutch’ just means doubling up on some exciting power pop groups from the Netherlands. Now our two bands – Want Want and Fokko – are actually the creation of a single creative force, songwriter Fokko Mellema. And their earliest and most recent releases sound remarkably similar, bearing the unmistakable influence of Weezer and Fountains of Wayne. I mean, Want Want’s debut album Mijn Meisje Vindt Me Leuk Zoals Ik Ben even includes a pretty fab Dutch language cover of FOW’s “Sink to the Bottom.” But in between there are some interesting stylistic detours in the transition from one band to another. But, in the end, everything usually comes back to crashing guitars, sweet harmonies, and irresistible melodic hooks.
Want Want hit the record scene in 2010 with Mijn Meisje Vindt Me Leuk Zoals Ik Ben, which roughly translates as My Girl Likes Me the Way I Am. Unlike a number of European acts trying to make it in the music business, Want Want do not sing in English but in Dutch. Ok, I have little idea just what they are singing about but with tunes this catchy, who really cares? What comes through is the sense of freewheeling fun on title track “Mijn Meisje Vindt Me Leuk Zoals Ik Ben,” “Klaasjan” and “Stuff Scoren” (Scoring Stuff). These songs remind me a lot of another great Dutch band, Sunday Sun. There’s even a bit of the irrepressible positivity of Linus of Hollywood on tracks like “Denk Er Niet Meer Aan” (Don’t Think About It Anymore). Things go a bit more indie with “Kip Paard Doe,” the band’s Dutch-ified cover of Fountains of Wayne’s “Sink to the Bottom,” and “Heleen” with its hints of Oasis in the verses. Other songs harken back to more 1960s influences, like “Klote” (Shit) and Beatle-ish “Niet Aardig Meer” (Not Nice More). Then there’s the sonically interesting juxtaposition of organ and guitar on “Hoog” (High) and lovely Big Star-like guitar palate on “Sanne.” 2012 saw the release of the band’s follow up EP Neit Huilen (Do Not Cry) which featured an even more concentrated dose of hooks, like the monster should-be hit single “Angelique,” with its addictive chorus and some tasty lead guitar work, and the relentlessly chirpy “Ik Denk Aan Jou” (I Think of You).
Yet despite some positive notices, Mellama shut down the band in favour of playing some solo living room gigs post 2012. Exactly when this all turned into Fokko is a bit unclear. Three EPs appear under the band name over 2014-15 period, the sound decidedly more acoustic and playful, a little less frenetically power pop. “Anna” is carried by a boppy acoustic guitar, “Ahoe” adds piano and some darker melodic shading, “Tijdbom” (Timebomb) puts a pretty cool violin into the mix, while “Eeuwig en Altijd” (Eternal and Always) dramatically scales things down to a lovely delicate juxtaposition of voice and instruments, reminding me of Farrah in their more mellow moments. Things pick up tempo-wise by the third EP with the gently raucus “Ruzie Op De Radio” (Quarrel on the Radio) and the very FOW “Hoofdpijn” (Headache). But the EP ends with the restrained “Tot Je Van Me Houdt” (Till You Love Me), another lovely acoustic guitar number delivered with the quiet, intimate confidence a la Elliott Smith.
2019 saw the band back with a big, big power pop sound on the full album release, Stadaarnietzodoeiets. This time, the return of crashing guitars and a more manic pacing was accompanied by a bit more menace than Want Want’s take on the genre. “Goeroe” (Guru) combines big guitar crunch with guest talk-vocals and a smooth hooky chorus. “Hose,” “Kim,” and “Plekje in De Zon” (A Place in the Sun) all balance melody with some killer lead guitar work. “Met Een Biertje Op De Bank” (With a Beer on the Couch) is a rollicking retro romp while “Is Het Nog Steeds Vandaag” (Is It Still Today) has some very Matthew Sweet adornments. The whole record is like one long surge of adrenaline, offering up 14 songs in just 35 minutes! Since then more stand-alone singles have emerged (“Ktll” and “Alles Gaat Kapot En Ik Trek Het Niet Meer”) that confirm a continuing focus on the power side of poprock.
Those Brits, they don’t know what they’re missing with all their Dutch hating. This double scoop of melodic rock and roll from the Netherlands is proof positive that great art transcends borders, language and historic animosities. Want Want and Fokko’s recorded output is readily available at all the usual e-music outlets – get yours there or from the source.
(My thanks to Ron Bormans for introducing me to this band!)