Album review: Arno Carstens – Atari Gala

Arno Carstens: Suburban Braai Tunes…


Before I begin this review, here’s a brief foreword: I started this write-up four days ago. However, upon hearing the record a couple of times and having started writing, I quickly realised I was horribly out of my depth. Consequently, I enlisted the help of two seasoned shitty-music listening aficionados. I’d like to thank them for their help. This was not something I could have undertaken alone. The months of therapy that it would have cost would have bankrupted me.

The 1990’s are not over, at least for Arno Carstens they’re not.

First, let’s begin with, shall we call it, the “artwork”. What I mean by artwork is merely a mismatched collection of MS Word fonts poorly positioned around the groomed visage of our noble elder statesman of rock “Arrggh-noooo”, who is mysteriously and edgily looking off to one side. He has chosen the title of Atari Gala, replete with the MS Word scripted Japanese word “Atari”… Brother: at least get true font or the actual hand painted paint characters! Seriously? And what does it actually mean? ‘Cos Arno is the type of guy who says what he means. It’s not as if ambiguity, the oblique, and obscurity are his strong suites.


A quick search reveals that Atari has a number of meanings, none of which I can make sense of in this context:

1. “the neighborhood; the vicinity; the surroundings; about”
2. “hit, success, reaching the mark…”
3. “to receive something fortuitously”

Next up: the appalling song titles (hackneyed lowercase included). no ordinary hero, battlescars galactic, switch off the machine, road to enlightenment, be my immortal, goodbye crazy, i breathe… Notwithstanding the really poor wordplay on the embattled science fiction franchise, these are song titles one might expect to find on a Faith Hill CD or a David Gilmour solo effort.

Thirdly, let us examine the lyrics, which are incidentally printed in the booklet (typos included), as if you cannot hear them already in the clean as a hospital-operating-theatre-floor production. At this point let me introduce a new term: Carno Arstens, which is the Latin term for “carrrn’t be arrrsked to actually write properly”. I believe it was coined by Virgil ( as early as 45BC to describe the works of some his less talented peers. Said lyrics are cringe-inducing, sappy Goo Goo Dolls ballad fodder. Needless to say, I’m sure it wasn’t difficult for him to delve into his stash of notebooks from teen school days and simply re-imagine the songs he’d written in his little head then and now apply them to his adult-life to churn out the standard 12 post-relationship blues tinged soft-rock songs we are presented with in this rather tedious album.


There’s nothing in this album for me to attach too. This is comfortable living, middle-aged listening. Very average Mum & Dad Rock. Smashing Pumpkin era revivalist mums and dads will lap this one up.

The music itself is a wash of Pro Tools-age compression, gating and post-production “sheen” and sterile cleanness that pervades every major recorded artist’s records in South Africa. The life is totally squeezed out of the music, the guitars processed to a creamed corn sheet of polite distortion and stadium aimed echo. It brings to mind artists such as Michael Learns To Rock, Lifehouse and the later-Bryan Adams catalogue. The album and music epitomises the South African “rock” music approach. An approach that’s served the likes of Watershed, Parlotones, Prime Circle, and the host of other music-biz savvy “bands”.

Now, where Arno would love to think of himself as South Africa’s Paul Weller he is unfortunately more of a South Africa’s “Sting”. Think what you will of that.

So, if you like your music polite and way-in-the-background at a “Braaaaai” with your “mates” around the manicured lawns of your pool area in the ‘burbs, then this record is for you. Just keep it well the fuck away from me; fanks!


3 thoughts on “Album review: Arno Carstens – Atari Gala

  1. I firmly believe you out of your depth here.
    Have you ever been to an Arno Carstens concert? This man has opened for the likes of R.E.M and has played in the UK!!!
    Arno Carstens is a hardworking, passionate, proudly South African musician!

  2. I don’t like his music… so no I’ve not been. I went to Springbok Nude Girls as a kid… and enjoyed the crap out of those shows (but i was 16)… Oh no wait I saw him open for REM in Jhb… and he sucked …. “Fromm a galaxy of pooooh!”

    As a really really *great* music critic said to me: IN THE EYES OF THE MANY!!!! I respect Argggh-No… but I hate his music……… bla bla bla…

  3. While the production *is* a bit too glossy for its own good, I have heard far worse before. I don’t think he is untalented, just lacking the right producer (and art director! Geez! That’s one lazy, uninspired layout right there!)

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