The Great Unwashed

May 19, 2013
1 min read

Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month, Gary Steel presents something local from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. Today’s surprise item?

The Great Unwashed

First published in TOM magazine, 1984.

The Great Unwashed – Singles (Flying Nun)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA THOUSAND BANDS used the Velvet Underground as inspiration after punk made it uncool to be hip-hip-hippy. Needless to say most squandered the idea by wrapping their sounds in the most superficial impression of Velvet-surround aspects.
Many of the bands Flying Nun records have a crucial Velvets heritage. Crucial’s the word. Unlike their British and American counterparts, some of these NZ bands sound like they’ve always been tuned into that particular universe.
The Great Unwashed strike straight for the rich fat vein that leads to the brain where all the colour and emotive impact is amplified into something which flashes ‘great sounds great’ (now, where’ve I heard that phrase before?) And they don’t even sound like they’re trying… is that the secret?
Here is a band that cares either too little, or too much (either way that spells integrity) for their music, to risk entering the rock and roll grail trail.
The record supposedly under scrutiny – the analytical process is surprisingly irrelevant and inept in these circumstances – is a double 7-inch single package containing five short songs, wrapped in a plastic hand-painted cover hand-stitched by Hamish Kilgour (one of the group and otherwise Flying Nun pseudo-supreme).
The records are extremely difficult to get out of their cover; no doubt intended to give the listener an added feeling of victory and satisfaction on completion of the task.
Oh, the tracks, the tracks. There are five of them. ‘Duane Eddy’, bizarre dirge and my ultimate fave: “Duane Eddy, one of many, put him on a stage, throw him a penny”; ‘Can’t Find Water’ and ‘Born In The Wrong Time’ are what you could expect from ex-Clean people. ‘Neck Of The Woods’ is what the Church should sound like. ‘Boat With No Ocean’ has the makings of a classic depressive pop song.
82034143The Great Unwashed are probably much more cult and less pop(ular) than they should or could be. A massive irony sees bands like The Violent Femmes more consumable, though TGU are infinitely superior. People are saying Flying Nun’s reign is over, but as long as there are people willing to buy records on intrinsic merit alone there should be a place for the Great Unwashed.
Great great great. What more could a mere mortal say? GARY STEEL

Note from the author: It wasn’t long until that hand-stitched package turned into a sticky mess and damaged the records, though I still have them, they still play, and over the years, those songs just grow in stature.

* Don’t forget to check out after May 31, where you’ll find a vast repository of NZ music history.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Give a little to support Witchdoctor's quest to save high quality independent journalism. It's easy and painless! Just donate $5 or $10 to our PressPatron account by clicking on the button below.

Witchdoctor straight to your inbox every 2nd week


Advance Paris - Designed with French flair. Amplifiers, Streamers, CD players and more
Previous Story

Beth Orton, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Saturday 18 May LIVE REVIEW

Next Story

The Chills, 1986

Latest from Music

Perfect Pitch

Twenty-five years ago GARY STEEL met up with wayward Kiwi electronic duo Pitch Black for a nice chat. A NZ Music Month special.
Go toTop