Sunday, 21 September 2014

Temporary: Selections from Dunedin's Pop Underground 2011 - 2014

Shayne Carter got it right about NZ music when he said about the Dunedin scene: "You're braver when it doesn't really matter, less self-conscious when you think nobody's listening."

The obvious reference point for Fishrider's compilation of the new New Zealand underground is Flying Nun's 1982 Dunedin Double compilation. Fishrider is capturing a scene at an exciting time - recent releases by The Prophet Hens, Males and Trick Mammoth have placed the label as the foremost chronicler of the kiwi underground - but Temporary is a very different enterprise to Dunedin Double.

Temporary showcases Fishrider's artists, kindred spirits and fellow travellers. It quite clearly dismisses the idea that Dunedin only has one sound. How else would you explain Mr Biscuit's riot grrrl sounds that belong more to Olympia than anywhere else? Or Strange Harvest's brittle electro folk? Or Kane Strang's strung-out psychedelia?

This daring, inventive collection has more in common with 1980s NZ compilations Off Our Shoulders and Unexplored - A Compilation Of New Zealand Recordings 1982-86 than it does with the Dunedin Double. It opens the doors to a thriving, genuinely exciting scene and is strong enough to demand, correctly, that the world takes notice.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Fuck Yeah! Choo Choo Train

The late 80s to early 90s indiepop boom in the USA inspired some great fanzines. Fuck Yeah! was one of the best. Issue 2 (just "one clam" at the newsstands) came with celebrity endorsements, eg: "I just like the word FUCK, it makes me happy" - Clare, Sarah Records.

This issue had an interview with Choo Choo Train. Predictably, Ric does most of the talking (if you ever saw him on stage, he hogged the limelight even from behind the drum kit).


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Joanna Gruesome and Trust Fund Split 12"

In which 2012's and 2013's most exciting tape debuts come together on one record. You know all about Joanna Gruesome, or you did until you hear their 3 new songs.

Because there's now space inside the sonic assault. Where there was once violence there is now menace. Guitars bicker belligerently and it's still a deliciously filthy noise, but this is better produced, better written and, precisely because Joanna Gruesome sound more confident, just better than they've been before. And you know just how good they were before.

Trust Fund have the kind of magical musical trickery that could make you believe 2 plus 2 equals 5. These songs are pure theatre, balancing Jonathan Richman's tenderness with Beulah's high-wire psychedelic pop and Flaming Lips' stratospheric opuses.

Don't ask me to pick a favourite. That'd be like picking a favourite child. And if I had children then social services would be knocking at the door and I want both these bands to have the freedom to make more brilliant records.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Flowers: Do What You Want To, It's What You Should Do


Those early Flowers songs sounded like a train going through a tunnel. Recorded at home on one track, those blizzards of noise offset by Rachel Kennedy's spectral voice are not just really good pop songs: they suggested that Flowers had much more to give.

Bernard Butler's production on the Do What You Want To, It's What You Should Do album gives Flowers' songs the space to breathe. They're a bit quieter, but far more dramatic. Like the McCarthy singles Frans Hals and Red Sleeping Beauty, the tension builds and builds. The disembodied vocals - an instrument itself - most obviously points to Elizabeth Fraser, but these songs are tougher and more direct than the Cocteau Twins.

There's the vigorous and intense riff on Comfort - a close cousin to The Wedding Present's This Boy Can Wait - and then there's the interpretation of the Be My Baby drumbeat on Anna. Not an entirely original reference point, for sure, but Flowers have the atmosphere and melodrama to put it next to another Be My Baby lift, the Magnetic Fields' When You Were My Baby. Way classier, then, than most other records you'll hear this year.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Cayetana: Nervous Like Me

Listening to this album is like receiving a letter from an old friend: immediately warm and inviting, recalling great times, familiar yet remarkably fresh.

Nervous Like Me is very early 90s - hurricane-force guitars, giant riffs carved in stone, dramatic hooks - but also very 2014. You could file this with the Crutchfield sisters, Burnt Palm and The Courtneys (to name just three) if you want to create a distaff rock scene. More likely, there's something pretty special going on in Philadelphia. Say, Cayetana, do you and Little Big League want to do a package tour of the UK?

You'll probably know their Hot Dad Calendar single. In which case, you'll buy this album today. If you don't, dive straight in:

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Bad Family

A couple of years ago I saw a band in Melbourne called Big Tobacco. Given their name I thought they'd sound like Joe Pernice. They didn't. In my - but maybe not their - wildest dreams I wished they'd sounded like Joe Pernice's Big Tobacco.

New Melbourne band Bad Family, though, do sound like the original Big Tobacco - crystal clear guitars, powerpop energy and enough melodic brilliance to recall favourite singles by McCarthy and The Smiths.

There's no cheap way to get this record sent to the UK. And in my experience it'll come packaged very badly.




Sunday, 31 August 2014

Smile: Blvd

Countrified slacker rock - like the Silver Jews and Teenage Fanclub, or Lemonheads on the comedown, or Pavement on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, or Luna's bewitching melodies. Really good stuff. You get the idea.





So slack, in fact, there's no stream of it. But if you know last year's Life Choices album, you'd buy it without hearing it, too. Because Life Choices has the brilliant VU-update Still Waiting For My Man, it's got a glassy guitar riff on the wonderfully titled Stoned (Get These Fucking Flies Off My Fucking Face/Shut Up And Make Money) and it's got Sunni Hart.

Sunni Hart is an uncompromising explosion of devotion to one woman. It's in the same league as The Modern Lovers' The New Teller and Buzzcocks' Love You More. It offers more in just 70 seconds than some bands do in a whole career.


Sunni Hart / Born Again by SMILE from MAX TURNER on Vimeo.