Nine albums in, New Zealand legends The Bats are still finding solace in strums and employing jangle in an abundance that’s just plain admirable. But, as began on 2011’s Free All Monsters, they’ve let the darkness in. It was never all bright spots and roguish charms, but now that age has seasoned the performers, the tones are shearing away some of their brightness to let the seriousness and gravity sink in. Robert Scott’s songs, like his fellow countrymen in The Chills, seem to have always found a fond friend in the ’80s work of R.E.M., and they take the some pleasure in picking through the rubble of Reckoning and Fables-era vibes. But the spirit of kiwi-pop lives on so strong in Scott’s work that even rounding up the outside influences can’t dim the looming specter of New Zealand jangle-pop.
The Deep Set is an apt description, and certainly not a toss away title. It’s the band digging into their own insecurities and letting the wrinkles show. They have a deep catalog at this point, but songs like “Antlers”, “Diamonds” and “No Trace” feel like they stand up easily in a set pulled from Daddy’s Highway or The Law of Things. They prove to be a band that’s without prime, or at least one that constantly exists in it. In an era of endless reformation for sale and reinvention without pity, it’s nice to find a band that ages with such grace that it feels natural, unforced and welcome.
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