Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

The Salad Boys – “This Issue”

New one outta New Zealand today sees The Salad Boys following up their excellent 2018 This is Glue LP from Trouble in Mind. This time the Boys are holding down in NZ’s excellent Melted Ice Cream stable and the a-side kicks in with all the squirm-punk niceties that I’ve come to expect from the band. The track cops a new wave kilter, slotted through with squeamish keys and clamps down the outbound filter with a good dose of crushed velvet fuzz on the vocals. The accompanying video codifies the same fuzzy feeling, running band footage through saturated colors, static, and lo-fidelity UHF freakouts. Good to have the band back after a year off.

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The Kiwi Animal – Music Media / Mercy

Digital Regress revive a pair of often overlooked New Zealand records from the duo of Brent Hayward and Julie Cooper, better known as The Kiwi Animal. Brent had roots in a couple of other NZ bands, most notably Shoes This High before he and Cooper brought their vision forward their unique take on acoustic pop in 1982. In antithesis to some of their contemporaries, the band didn’t adopt the jangled or bent punk styles that were more popular, but instead found footing in an emotionally bare, often politically leaning folk style that was both gentle and bracing simultaneously. Comparisons to The Vaselines are not without warrant, though The Kiwi Animal don’t often find themselves as cheeky as Kelly and McKee might.

Digital Regress packs up both the band’s debut, Music Media and its follow-up Mercy. The first embraces movement as well as experimentation, sliding from the radio-static dirge, “Radio One” into the sprightly (by their standards certainly) “Every Word is a Prayer.” Cooper has a way of hitting the listener in the heart, tugging at the bittersweet sighs on “Blue Morning.” The record is split between its impulses, but the band manages to pull it off without sounding scattered. Mercy finds itself in a starker place than its predecessor, creeping through the shadows and edged with an anxious energy that ditches notions of catchiness for art house experimentation that would mirror Brent’s foray into film, which would go on to include low-key releases Mudslinging (1984), Beat It (1986), Slick (1989), and his long simmering The Confessions of Johnny Barcode.

Both albums have been out of print for many years, with late ‘90s / early ‘00s editions showing up on German label Sonic Squid. Digital Regress has issued these in editions of 500 copies, with 100 of each on colored vinyl. Truly a portion of the Kiwi underground that needs to be revitalized and reissued. Get them while you can. Highly Recommended!



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Bill Direen – A Memory of Others

In the lore of New Zealand rock, Bill Direen is a mythical figure. More than just a songwriter (though he’s a hell of one to be sure) Direen also served as a literary guide at the head of Percutio Magazine and he’s written as extensively on the page as he has in his songs. This new volume from Sophomore Lounge acts as a bit of a musical accompaniment to his life and works. Simon Ogston has directed a documentary about Direen — Bill Direen: A Memory of Others — and this serves as a companion piece to the film. It’s not a soundtrack, since the film itself doesn’t pull strictly from the recorded versions of Bill’s work, but the songs themselves are as integral to getting to know Direen as the film itself.

Direen kicked through several early bands in his youth – forming (the) Vacuum in 1980 along with soon to be members of The Pop Group. His band The Urbs laid the groundwork for The Builders (or Bilders depending what year it is.) The group’s debut Beatin’ Hearts still stands as an essential of pre-Flying Nun primal New Zealand rock and has cemented Direen in the roots of a sound that would continue to expand and explode in and around Christchurch in the years to come. The album, covers his time in The Builders and beyond, but this is no chronological arc. The record skips scattershot between periods and players, giving a three-dimensional picture of Direen’s work.

The songs move from early, fuzz-caked but brilliant pop nuggets to arid and affecting poetry backed by more organic and quieter players. Direen traversed post-punk to folk while making it all seem like one long spectrum. Like the film that portrays him, the album is euphoric and melancholic, hallucinatory and revelatory. Direen’s name should always be among those being discussed in the formation of the Kiwi sound, but more than that, he should be among the best of those seeking to shove pop from its ivory pedestal – a punk in the truest sense of the term. He’s a peddler of pain and a seeker of light. His music and art deserve to be brought to the surface worldwide. I highly recommend checking out Ogston’s film to get some insight into Direen’s arc with some great commentary from a litany of fellow NZ players, and picking up this anthology of South Hemi bedrock.






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Kool Aid – “Family Portrait Revisited”

Some new activity bounding out of Christchurch’s always entertaining Melted Ice Cream collective. The NZ label’s always a beacon of consistency and they pick up a new cut from Kool Aid (formerly Brian Tamaki and the Kool-Aid Kids) and its a faded track full of sun-in, bleary indie ramble. “Family Portrait Revisited” sways in the breeze, lays in the cool parched meadow and squints at the sun for a spell. The songs got a built in breeziness and a touch of summer sweat on the surface. Hoping this is a lead up to a full album because this one is too good to just leave us all hanging. Pick up the single over at MIC’s bandcamp now.



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Hamish Kilgour on The West Coast Pop Art Ensemble – Vol. 2

Adding another legend to the halls of Hidden Gems this week with an entry from The Clean/Mad Scene’s Hamish Kilgour. If you’ve poked through even a smattering of RSTB posts there’s a chance that Flying Nun is namechecked somewhere in close by. So, its definitely an honor to have Hamish take a crack at an album that’s missed its due. He takes a pick from a band that’s long been storied in ’60s psych history, but as is so often the case, picks an album that’s more personally connected to him than universally renown. Usually the accolades on The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band go to their Mother’s-esque debut or their apocalyptic Vol. 3. Kilgour recounts his experience with the band’s sophomore LP an its effect on him as a listener and a songwriter.

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Wurld Series – “The Bend”

Christchurch’s Wurld Series follows up last year’s Air Goofy LP with an EP stretching for the sweet spot between The Lilys and Pavement. Standout single, “The Bend,” leans much harder on the latter’s influence, ambling and shambling its way through lackadaisical pop like the band’s never been hurried in their lives. The song embodies the soul of slacker pop, driving dirge-laden guitars into frothy beds of fuzz and stretching its length into a woozy six+ minutes. They push a reliance on hooks aside, choosing instead to build a base of atmosphere and working their way towards the alt-flavored jams of Sonic Youth, while battling feedback like an encroaching wave.

They clock the EP in for the excellent Melted Ice Cream Collective that’s bound up so many of New Zealand’s best and brightest of late – Salad Boys, Opposite Sex, Transistors, Terror of the Deep, to name a few. Best to keep an eye out for that cassette and a closer eye on the label, who are an excellent barometer of taste down Kiwi way.


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Nocturnal Projections – Complete Studio Recordings

Somewhere near the roots of New Zealand post-punk lie the early singles of Nocturnal Projections, eking life into a scene that would blossom within Island’s small scene. Brothers Peter and Graeme Jefferies formed the band in 1981, years before they’d lay down acerbic tracks as This Kind of Punishment. After they parted ways, Graeme would fulfill his destiny in The Cakekitchen and Peter would skew solo, but this was where they began in earnest. After a smattering of bands like Plastic Bags that didn’t catch hold the brothers found a fanbase with Nocturnal Projections’ driving, anthemic sound. Hardly celebrated in their tenure, except by locals who were lucky enough to catch them on stage at their favored haunt, The Lion Tavern, or opening for The Fall and New Order in hometown gigs. They came to further prominence in the ‘90s when European label Raffmond issued much of their collection on CD under the title of their incendiary b-side, “Nerve Ends In The Power Lines.”

That comp, along with the legacy of both This Kind of Punishment and The Cakekitchen, served to bolster the band as a touchpoint for younger post-punk bands, and with good reason. Though the band is often compared to Joy Division, they’re cut from a slightly sunnier cloth, strapping on vocals that touch into Ian McCulloch territory. Their output revels in dark overtones, and an admittedly grimier production than their UK counterparts, while sparring widescreen hooks with propulsive bass. Now, Dais has finally put the band’s three official releases – the Another Year 7” + a S/T 7” and S/T 12” – together onto a collection of complete studio recordings. The collection marks the first time that all three are back on LP since 1983, giving collectors of the rather pricey singles a handy primer on the band’s most lasting works.

In addition, the label has also issued a collection of studio rarities and bonus tracks as a separate LP, which works well, rather than bloating out a release with diehard fodder the two LPs serve as both a toe into the band’s world and a definitive pairing for those who have long sought out the band’s discography. Fans of any of the Jefferies’ projects would do well to jump in here and those with a soft spot for UK post-punk of the same era will find a welcome kinship in the band’s complete works.



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Salad Boys

Christchurh, New Zealand has a long standing indie history and Salad Boys seems to take plenty of inspiration from their Kiwipop heritage. There’s a bit of The Bats in the mix, sure, though that probably just becomes DNA for anyone from the town. They dose in a bit of fellow NZ heroes The Chills as well, but the updated sound on This Is Glue is tougher, thicker and more roughed up than either. They come closest to the erratic yet ebullient pop of The Clean. The guitars speak to a love of grunge and garage, driving with a force that’s reckless and rallying in equal measures. They don’t stop at mere gnarled bombast though and that’s what makes this a record worth spinning more than once on the old table.

Peppering in some lush keys and swooning strums, the record is the most accomplished work I’ve heard from the band. They’ve always been kicking in the circles of records that float my way and peak my interest but up until now they’ve always seemed to be lacking that glue to hold their shambolic pop together. I suppose then that the title speaks volumes to their newfound footing and to a confidence in knowing they’ve finally found that spark. The record fizzes with hooks that can’t help but dredge up visions of nineties indie heroes baiting the breath of major A&Rs with money to burn.

They draw on the queasy notions of The Feelies and the heatworn pop of Fountains of Wayne and The Lemonheads. This record pulls them out of the scrappy indie gutter and has them reaching for some rock permanence. This isn’t a record that’s instant in its embrace, but rather a grower that seems to sow fondness with each new listen. While this might not be the one that cements their status its a damn fine start that should pull a few ears their way.




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Look Blue Go Purple – Still Bewitched

In putting together a comp of great jangle-pop last month I was sad to see that female voices, as with many genres, often went underrepresented. One of the brightest stars, and subsequently most often overlooked came in the form of Dunedin group Look Blue Go Purple. The band arrived as part of the Flying Nun stable’s second wave, beginning a run of great EPs from 1985 through 1987. The EPs – Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This – all make their way onto this compilation along with a cache of live tracks spanning from their formation in 1983 to their dissolution in ’87.

The band perfected that distinctive New Zealand jangle, but augmented it superbly with woven vocals, melancholy keys and spectral flute. They worked their way into the canon of culture in their homeland, but unlike contemporaries in The Chills and The Bats, they didn’t find a foothold outside of the country at the time, making them more of a secret handshake between Flying Nun and jangle lovers. The band sprang out of a desire to create music with other women, and though they took inspiration from The Raincoats and The Slits, they were adamant in not presenting themselves as a purely feminist well-spring. Sadly, their status as one of the singular female bands rising in Dunedin lead them to endless questions about gender in regard to their music.

The focus away from the music is criminal, as Look Blue Go Purple remains one of the more nuanced jangle-pop bands to come out of the area. They, like The Beach Boys before them, knew the power of layering vocals in valleys of harmony. Adding to this is the power trio at the core of their songwriting – Denise Roughan, Kathy Bull, and Norma O’Malley. The latter provided the distinctive key swells and enchanted flute parts that truly separate the group from the pack, while Roughan and Bull kept the jangles knotted and the bounce elastic. Flying Nun has done a service getting these EPs bound up on 2xLP, and though the historical inclusion of the live tracks gives this a strong perspective, the fact that it creates a whole new release from their 1991 compilation means that they forgo putting this amazing cover on the gatefold. All in all, this falls heavily in the essential pile.




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The Wild Poppies – Heroine

Wellington New Zealand’s The Wild Poppies grew up out of the country’s verdant jangle-pop leagues, though they broke for greener pastures in England not long after their formation. The band’s legacy is ensconced in their sole album, Heroine, the preceding single and a follow-up EP that was aptly titled Out of Time. Their move to the UK toughened their sound and added in a bit of shoegaze to their sunnier Kiwi stylings, aided in no small measure by their housemates at the time from Swervedriver. The reissue of their album contains their entire output with a few unreleased tracks thrown in for good measure, following them through each phase of the band’s life.

As is all too often the case timing turned out to be the band’s enemy and as they wound their way out of their swan song EP, they sensed tastes changing in the UK, swinging away from their ’80s jangles and into the arms of dance culture. It’s too bad as their tougher edge showed great promise. They disbanded shortly after and the band members went on to leave music behind. Still this remained a long respected item in jangle-pop collector’s circles and it’s good to have the whole collection back on vinyl.




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