For fans of NZ indie pop The Clean will always be an essential inclusion in any collection, but far less gushed about is David Kilgour’s short-lived band Stephen. The band was formed during a hiatus from The Clean, though at the time it didn’t seem like Kilgour had any plans to revive his most famous outfit. Stephen was an attempt for him to take more of a backseat, sharing songwriting duties with Alf Danielson (Goblin Mix) and later Steve Kilroy. The band was conceived as a bit of a relaxed atmosphere after the high expectations placed on The Clean, and it’s reflected in their breezy kiwi-pop. The Radar of Small Dogs has been compiled and reissued previously, first at Flying Nun and later as a short-run white label edition for Joyful Noise, but it’s turned up this time as a reissue for Grouper’s Yellow Electric imprint with new art, liner notes, and original photographs. Sometimes essential reissues pop up in the most unexpected places.
The release culls together the band’s Dumb EP, which finds them enjoying breezy indie-pop with a scratchy fit, and songs from The Radar of Small Dogs demos that they’d been working on for an un-released debut LP, which found Kilroy enter the mix. While it’s not an album proper, the record gives a potent snapshot of a band that wasn’t quite meant to last but seemed to be enjoying their time while they existed. In an upcoming Maggot Brain interview Kilgour refers to his time in Stephen as being “in someone else’s band” underlining the aspirations to just play without needing it to carry the import that people had placed on The Clean. That Joyful Noise issue was up and gone in no time, so I wouldn’t sleep to hard on this version. The new issue is limited to 1000, and if your Flying Nun collection needs a bit of padding, this one is a damn fine addition.
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