Shadowclub have just released their much anticipated second album, Goodbye Wild Child. It is one of the best albums of the year, says Therese Owen.
‘Come with me to a cave!” Really, Jacques? Really! “Yes! It’s just there, across the river.”
The date was February 2012. We were at Up the Creek. It was a Sunday morning and the lead singer of Shadowclub, Jacques Moolman, had yet to realise just how famous and respected and wow Shadowclub had become. Guns and Money (2011) had just become the most important and coolest debut album since Springbok Nude Girls’ Neanderthal 1.
The night before the trio had conquered all with songs like Lucy and then Moolman got it all twisted and bum-rushed the stage when other bands were playing.
By the next day, bassist Louis Roux and drummer Isaac Klawansky were fed up and left their lead singer behind. It was then that I met with the rock star that is Jacques Moolman.
Up The Creek is on the Breede River in the Western Cape. The idea on a Sunday morning is to lie on a lilo and watch the beautiful music on the stage above the lazy river.
But Moolman had different ideas. After all, there was a cave across from the lazy river that he wanted to explore. How could I resist? This tantalising, intelligent, ADD, brilliantly talented, challenging, charming, intense, non-specific human being was inviting me into his weird, crazy world.
On the way down to the river, the festival fans were enchanted with him. Yet he was so scarily out there that I made him promise the only person he was allowed to speak to was me. “Only look at me. Only speak to me,” I told him, holding his hand tightly.
We swam across the river and climbed over rocks and crevices and, true to his word, Moolman found the cave. He giggled insanely deep in the cave and then seemed to find peace. The day was beautiful.
“Hey, Therese, I used to be a street skater. Look!” He rushed out the cave, jumped over rocks and kinda, sorta skated over air.
‘Dear God, please don’t die! You’re too beautiful!’ was my immediate thought. Moolman looked up, gave an insane grin and dove straight back into the river.
This was all on the back of an incredible first album, Guns and Money. It was an album that celebrated rock ’n’ roll blues in the 21st century. The lyrics were honest, intimate, and verging on Therapy’s Troublegum. Shadowclub’s album was a much-needed injection after years of domination by the Bellville crew fronted by Fokofpolisiekar and Die Heuwels Fantasties.
Fast-forward to December last year and things have changed. Shadowclub have released Goodbye Wild Child, their much-anticipated second album.
We are in Durban for their gig at Live – The Venue. Just before their sound check we meet to discuss the album. Not to be overly dramatic, but Goodbye Wild Child is akin to what Nirvana had to write after Nevermind or Pearl Jam after Ten. Shadowclub’s debut is that good.
“We had 30 songs and experimented with them all and judged by the crowd’s response,” explain the boys.
“There was a chick who said this album was more commercial than the last,” says Roux. “We can’t help that we have become better songwriters.”
Oh, our sweet little purists!
“The jump between the first and second album is massive,” continues Klawansky.
It certainly is. Yet Shadowclub have matched and, in years to come, many will agree, bettered their first album. And, like all rock ’n’ roll stories, theirs is not without challenges. Moolman had a stroke because of some mischievous indulgences.
“Addiction is selfishness,” he admits. “It was screwing with the band. It had the potential to ruin us.”
The three of them seem to be much closer than they ever were.
“We are serious musicians, but we f***ed around in the beginning,” says Klawansky.
“It was a life-and- death situation for Jacques.”
The band say they went for therapy because they almost fell apart. Moolman takes up the story: “Louis’s mother had died. Isaac was having panic attacks. I was having a spiritual battle with drugs and alcohol. It was do or die. It was an ultimatum. Either we fix it, or it’s over.”
Through all of this and during all of this came an album that splurges on rock ’n’ roll cool, that bites ballads with fervour and, when its all over, is like the best sex ever!
Moolman’s lyrics are often too close for comfort, perhaps because they are narratively too honest.
Interview over and a few hours later it’s time to see the wild boys in action. Live – The Venue is filled with Durban December sweat. The girls are looking beautiful and the boys are raring for some nasty distorted guitar.
The chemistry between the three rockers is tangible, but not visible. Each knows their strategic role in the band. Klawansky is an emotional machine of a drummer. Roux is that dependable bassist who also understands flair, rhythm and sometimes prefers to pretend his bass is a guitar.
And then of course there is Moolman. Unlike his passionate disorganisation off stage, Moolman is focused precision on stage.
It is Moolman and his guitar and that voice. Nothing else exists because nothing else should exist. It could be terrifying if it wasn’t so maddeningly beautiful.
They deliver their show with war, passion, sensitivity and sheer hard-core rock ’n’ roll. There is no other band in the world like Shadowclub. Goodbye Wild Child is an album to be celebrated through the eons of time.