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Extra Virgin - January 2010
Money Arno Carstens is hoping his third solo album, Wonderful Wild, will be the one that establishes him overseas. Heard that before? Sure, but with big backing in the UK and a world class producer on board, this might well be the one, says Arthur Christopher.

When the Springbok Nude Girls split up at the end of the nineties, Arno Carstens found himself sleeping on his brother's couch in Cape Town working as an occasional model. He sent a demo CD to his producers and was roundly refused. They didn't see his working as a solo act.


But now, as ever, he is far more concerned with winning acclaim and filling venues overseas. Wonderful Wild has been made with that intention at its heart.

Produced by John Giddings, honcho at Live Nation UK, which manages the careers of such artists as Bono, Sting and Madonna, the album has every chance of succeeding. There is money behind it and a full tour diary including dates at some of Europe's biggest festivals. The question is: is it any good?

The opening track, Dreamer, is chart fodder of the highest order. The song's meteoric rise up the local charts since its release in February has made this point, but where his first album, Another Universe, had perhaps one more hit on it - and the follow up The Hello Goodbye Boys perhaps one fewer - Wonderful Wild has six or seven.

Emergency, with a rousing chorus that Carstens seems in rather a hurry to get to, is likely single number two and Heartbreak Monday, written by his new pal Paulo Nutini, may well be the third. The producers have wisely placed the album's three most likely hits at numbers one, two and three, which makes for an exciting opening ten minutes.

The title track is a gentle, whimsical tune that Carstens might have worked on with James Taylor in the sixties, and the soft touch doesn't end there. Carstens has clearly tuned into a different, poppier station - the evidence is all in the song titles and the lyrics. "Note of Bliss", "Perfect Day", "Sunrise" - the tone is cheerful and almost uncharacteristically saccharine.

Or, it would be uncharacteristic if Carstens hadn't always wanted to be a pop star. It is easy to forget with the Nude Girls' discography as grungy and often dark as it was that one of the first songs this musician ever wrote was titled, "Pa ek wil 'n popster wees" (Dad I want to be a pop star).

Wonderful Wild may or may not be the record that finally answers that wish. One thing is certain - with a track list this full of radio-friendly hit material, we will all be very familiar with this album by the end of the year.