Pin Group – Ambivalence (Flying Nun/Warner) CD REVIEW

FORTUNATE TO HAVE had the very first release, ever, on the now-legendary Flying Nun label, Pin Group has been saved from the indignity of obscurity by the fact of that association.
That, and the fact that several of its members – Roy Montgomery, Ross Humphries and Peter Stapleton – went on to work that established them as names in their own right in the NZ alt-rock/noise scene.
Ambivalence gathers together the group’s meagre discography; essentially three early Flying Nun singles from 1981-82 and their b-sides, one live track and a couple of songs recorded much later, in 1992.
Their biggest fan, the indefatigable promoter of Dunedin nonsense, Bruce Russell, weighs in with liner notes that spend more time discussing their era, and their “mysterious appeal” (which seems to have largely comprised of Ronnie Van Hout, their one-man “design Tsunami”) than the music itself.
It’s really, really bad. At best, Pin Group is a moment in time and a shadowy memory of some gig where everyone was really out of it. On compact disc, it sounds all rather embarrassing.
‘Jim’ is a scratchy, badly Xeroxed Joy Division that even cribs that group’s riffs – or at least, attempts to, so poor is their execution. It’s monotonous, tuneless and still, after all these years, dishwater dull. ‘Coat’ is muffled, hopeless, as is ‘Long Night’ with its rehearsal-grade strum and self-conscious Ian Curtis impersonation. And the lyrics – gah! ‘Hurricane Fighter Plane’ and ‘Low Rider’, both recorded a decade later in ’92, are much better: the first is an entirely different sound, with burbling synthesiser, and the second is their version of that great Long Beach group War’s ‘Low Rider’, which comes over like a pisstake, but really, it pisses all over Pin Group because it’s a great song, and it’s not theirs.
I’m growing tired of this endless mythologizing of bands that, at best, were footnotes, and which certainly deserve to be preserved as historic artifact, but hardly to be re-represented as something of real value that’s worthy of a good listen, and the spending of cold hard cash, in 2012. GARY STEEL

Sound = 1.5/5
Music = 1/5

5 Comments

  1. Hurricane Fighter Plane is a cover too…

  2. Had you not heard them before?
    Did you never discover the fabulous FAILSAFE label from CHCH that release amazing cassette compilations including ACCIDENT on which PG’s’Lowrider’ was originally released.
    Are you not familiar with the 1997 Siltbreeze PG comp CD released many years back?
    Because I am over the moon with this release and have always thought that they one of the best on Flying Nun.
    I only wish that the Shallows 7″ was included!
    Thanks Roger!

  3. Simon – lots of information in your comment, but unfortunately no attempt at articulating why it is you think they’re so fabulous.

  4. It would help if this writer did a bit more research: i.e. Hurricane Fighter Plane is a Red Krayola cover; decrying Bruce Russell as ‘promoter of Dunedin nonsense’ in a review about a group from Christchurch. The ‘endless mythologizing’ talked about is possibly the most mysterious claim (certainly if we’re thinking in terms of a broader cultural remit than underground rock, which we should be, as I gather Witchdoctor has a broader reach). There’s an agenda/axe to grind here, which is okay I guess, except that dressing down someone else (Russell) for having their own ‘agenda’ seems disingenuous, at the very least.

  5. Jade – If you’d care to look carefully, I never claimed that ‘Hurricane Fighter Plane’ was a Pin Group original, and I certainly never claimed that they were a Dunedin band. I have no particular axe to grind with Russell, other that he clearly has an agenda, and that’s to (as I wrote) mythologize murky Dunedin/Christchurch noise bands. And because he’s pretty much the only voice heard overseas, as a contributor to magazines like Wire, his flawed arguments are accepted as reality.

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