But for such an approachable, affable chap, Hilkmann's music is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma wrapped up in a Hema gift-wrap.
And lo, the beat stumbled on, and people babbled about OnNederlandsgoed on the television to the TV dinner audience, others got upset about beer showers, some gave up their olive and salad diet to rave on about Febo and being from the provinces, bands copied bands to the point of embarrassment, people kept saying "Rotterdamse trots" for no reason (apart from the fact that they felt they had to), bands were picked up and marketed, put on tapes they had no reason to be on, or cleaned up to the point that they sounded nothing like the reason everyone liked them in the first place, and everyone got slowly bored with the 35984978548533643688 psych/garage/"girl" [sic! sic!] bands currently plying their trade like so many bicycle repair men (and "girls"). And everyone talked about Spotify as if it was the Golden Calf. Or an order from the Berchtesgaden. Toff, toffe, and maybe minder toff. But super leuk.
But where was the music in all of this? Well, the dogs barked and the caravan moved on to somewhere else. And people got on with other things in the Low Countries. Luckily, some had kept their heads down through all the recent fuss and done things that initially seemed stupid and navel gazing and ridiculously avant-nothing to most, but proved to be of vital importance for everyone's sanity. Marcel at Smikkelbaard. Mike and Lilia at Barreuh. Arie at Boring Pop. The Shaky Maraccas lads. Jacco Weener on Planet Jacco. Jeroen at "Spoelstralia" HQ. Manfred & Co at Droppings, and those crayzee Beton Fraktion dudes. And Niek Hilkmann. Thank your God of Choice for the precocious, anti-message of Niek Hilkmann.
Niek's just released a record, which is criminally short, something like 15 minutes long. I can't be bothered checking. But it's a pop gem that draws creative sustenance from his own development in (former/"rested" band) Yoshimi, Vader Abraham, de Clichee Mannetjes AND Peter J Muller combined (think of that hep cats) and Jonathan Richman. Imagine a Jonny Richman singing in halting, heavily-accented Dutch about his lately deceased Welsh Corgi (ultra-seriously, heart-rendingly) or an unnamed paramour (the super catchy Alles) and you're there. And it's all presented in the most singalongable, hook-laden, poptastic, "1962" manner imaginable. In this Hilkmann shares some spirit with that other lone mountain goat of Dutch language jangle pop, Lucky Fonz.
But for such an approachable, affable chap, Hilkmann's music is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma wrapped up in a Hema gift-wrap. His songs (Uitverkooop, Palindroom) seem to inhabit an intensly personal world that should mean sweet FA to anyone else; yet a track like Uitverkoop is - and this is taking into account its super simple and miniaturist premise - a mini anthem in all but name.
There is fun and imagination in the Netherlands. But right now, the funsters are writing their operation notes from undergrond, waiting for the dregs and loose dogs to disappear to some other place. Watch out.