I have been in possession of Fokofpolisiekar’s latest offering, Selfmedikasie (“Self medication”) – the band’s first full-length album in a decade – for exactly two weeks now, having received a special pre-release digital download awarded to backers of the band’s recent (massively successful) crowdfunding campaign.
I had wanted to write a review on the album after the very first listen already, but the task seemed so daunting – impossible, even – that it has taken me this long to gather the courage to attempt it. For how does one begin to convey such a range of intersecting and overwhelming emotions in a single article?
The only way forward, I concluded, was to simply start and let the aforesaid emotions guide me in my writing.
I was only 21 years old when I first saw Fokofpolisiekar (“fuckoffpolicecar”) perform as the opening act for the Violent Femmes when they visited South Africa back in 2005. I was too young and naive to fully comprehend the gravity of what I was witnessing, and it wasn’t until I saw the band perform as a headliner approximately a year later that I began to understand that what I was witnessing wasn’t just some live musical act, it was history being made.
After that second encounter, a lifelong fan was born, and I have followed the group’s meteoric rise from pioneers of the burgeoning Afrikaans rock scene, to a household name that has captured the public’s imagination and has become the poster-child for a cultural revival not seen since the days of artists such as Johannes Kerkorrel and Dagga Dirk Uys.
Listening to Selfmedikasie in the context of the band’s previous albums, there is a clear progression, an evolution: from the raw, angst-ridden debut As jy met vuur speel… (“If you play with fire…) through the multifaceted and critically-acclaimed Lugsteuring (“Interference/disturbance”) and onto the deeply introspective and emotional Swanesang (“Swansong”), Fokof’s growth as artists and human beings couldn’t be more evident.
Like the masterful Swanesang, the band’s latest release is full of nostalgia and relatable lyrics, skilfully contrasting raw energy with songs such as Dis in my bloed, baby (“It’s in my blood, baby”) with tearjerker ballads the likes of Komma (“Comma”). Enigmatic singer Francois van Coke recounts his youth in the Cape Town suburb of Bellville on B2CY while reflecting on the inevitability of change with instant classic Ek is cool (Ons is fucktup) (“I am cool [we are fucked up]”)
To say that Selfmedikasie is a brilliant album would be doing it a grave disservice. Ten years in the making, the album has all the poignancy, power and pain that make thousands of fans identify with the group of unlikely heroes from a tiny town in the Western Cape.
As the band proudly declares on B2CY: Harde, negatiewe musiek het my lewe gered. Loud, negative music saved my life.