Forty years ago: the slow-cooked post-punk of Unrestful Movements

May 11, 2023
5 mins read

For NZ Music Month GARY STEEL dips once again into his archive of interviews. From May 1983, here are Unrestful Movements.

Unrestful Movements are punk like it’s supposed to be. They dare to be different, say what they think, dress how they like. They have something to say, but don’t delude themselves that the message is the be-all and end-all. The music stands or fall on its own merits.

Says vocalist/writer of words Glen: “The whole idea of punk music originally was to be really different, not like everybody else. Is punk an attitude or is it music?”

Not that UM go out of their way to be different just for the sake of it. They just want to be themselves, unlike superficially similar bands like Flesh De-Vice, who like the British counterparts have reduced punk to a pathetic ritual of follow the leader tradition at least as deadly as the HM syndrome.

Where Wellington’s Oi contingent follow British trends and sing with Cockney accents, Unrestment Movements take the spirit of bands like The Gordons and Shoes This High. Like these indisputable greats, UM aspire only to produce original New Zealand music. Forget fashion. Think of commitment, freedom and individuality. It’s intense, jarring music with emphasis placed on noise-value. But again, UM’s music is a million miles from three-chord thrash blam-blam-blam punk aesthetics.

The music itself is mostly slow, some would say ponderous. It leaves spaces so that you aren’t deadened by noise overkill. Whether UM are as good as I tend to think they are, only time will tell. But they have forged their own unique sound out of a stance many would think extinct in 1983. And I’m glad it’s not.


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UM began just on a year ago when Pam (bass) and Glen arrived in Wellington. The duo had played on the Sweetwaters Railway Stage as Unrestful Movements In The Vegetable Patch. “We decided to shift down to Wellington because Auckland seemed such a violent place,” says Glen. “We got to know Grenville (guitar, ex-Insects That Jive Across Crippled Grass Blades) and he knew Tim (drums). Their first gig was a Saturday afternoon support for Neoteric Tribesmen at Clyde Quay Tavern, during which they showed considerable promise on several songs.

“We’d decided even before we played at Clyde Quay that we wanted to record, because no-one would let us play anywhere, so we thought we might as well do something rather than just vegetate and sulk,” says Glen.

They recorded six tracks at Miramar’s Crescendo Studios, and stated approaching record shops with the idea of making a tape and selling that in Wellington. Grenville: “I hadn’t actually heard about Jayrem Records, and I just went into Chelsea to see if they would sell a few if we got cassettes made up. And this guy with glasses was raving on: ‘Well, look, I’m pretty busy at the moment, I’ll listen in the weekend, and get back to you.”

James Moss’s company released the tracks as a 12” record in December 1982, giving the band national distribution. And now, barely six months later, comes their second six-track 12” record, Q: Are You A Fireman? Recorded once again at Crescendo, it’s a marked improvement on the punky belligerence of the first record. The songs are slower, but more powerful. “This time”, says Grenville, “we put all the tracks down, and then went away and thought about it for a couple of days, listened to it. The first one we recorded in two nights, and when you record it, and mixing it and you hear it a hell of a lot, after a while it starts washing over you and you don’t pick things up.”

They have nothing but praise for Crescendo and producer Derek Archer. “He gives you a lot of confidence because he really knows what he’s doing,” says Glen. “He gives you a fairly free hand in the studio, so you can fiddle around on the mixing desk. And then he comes in with his technical knowledge and says ‘you can’t do that, you can’t push this that fast’. So you get what you want,   alright? I’ve got a lot of other tapes to listen to.’ So I went back, although I was getting really confused by this time. And it all happened from there.”

Says Grenville: “Crescendo probably don’t like what we do at all, but they’re still really enthusiastic and they really try.”

The real problem, it seems, is one of time. The record was recorded in February, and already new ideas are fermenting. Although UM have found some difficulty in getting gigs due to wrong-headed assumptions by venues that they are a bootboy band, they genuinely don’t like playing too much. “If you’re playing all the time you don’t get time to do new material,” says Glen. Grenville: “It becomes too much of a routine. Just going through the motions.” And, as Glen points out, “A band can play in one town too much.” To remedy this problem, UM are trying to arrange swap-deals with Auckland bands unknown to Wellington.

Why are the lyrics such blatant statements? UM don’t write love songs. “Human relationships, love songs – there are enough people doing that sort of thing”, says Glen. “I like vocals which carry a message… I write bluntly so there won’t be as many misinterpretations of what I’m trying to say.”

“We’re just trying to make people wake up,” says Tim. “So many people just don’t care about the way the world’s going, they’re just firemen.” This is not a criticism of firemen, but rather an analogy: the cover of their new record depicts a group of firemen lining up to have their picture taken while a house behind them burns to the ground. The firemen are us, we, people too blind to see.

“That’s the world burning behind them, and they’re the ones that can save it, put the fire out, but they’re just standing there. They probably lit that one themselves!”

Glen clarifies that lyrics should not be interpreted as the gospel according to UM. “There is no right and wrong – everybody’s just got an opinion.”

So how seriously do they take the band? There is unanimous agreement with Glen: “I’m only playing in it because I really want to. The minute I start looking on it as a job I’m not going to do it.”


+ The story above first appeared in Issue #4 of Wellington’s TOM magazine in May 1983.  Unrestful Movements never released another record. The two extended-play Eps (five tracks and six tracks respectively) were issued on CD for the first time on a self-titled compilation on Jayrem in 2011, along with four previously unreleased demos. Witchdoctor would love to know what the former members of Unrestful Movements are doing these days.

+ For a slightly better piece on the group check my story from The Times from around the same time:



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

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