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?
Unrestful Movements, introduced to the audience of the Times (now known as the Sunday Star Times), 15 May, 1983.
THE POWER OF noise in music has been consistently underrated. Not noise as it is often misused and abused by heavy metal bands, but a great sonic revelation. Noise to motivate, aggravate, and take you to a different space.
Noise harnessed and released with (believe this) sensitivity is terrifying and beautiful. Noise has power, and an ability to transcend phony refinement. The Birthday Party, and New Zealand bands like The Gordons and Shoes This High (now known as Fishschool) have known this for years. And now, continuing that grand tradition is Wellington’s Unrestful Movements.
The individual characteristics of Unrestful Movements are that their message is less abstract, more down to earth. The music maintains the power to communicate more than mere statements, while lyrics are specific thoughts and questions about specific issues. The music itself makes only a fraction of the noise of, say, The Birthday Party, but it shares an intensity.
Unrestful Movements (In The Vegetable Patch) began as a duo of bassist Pam and vocalist Glen in early 1982. When Pam and Glen decided that Rotorua wasn’t their scene, they moved to Wellington and set about forming the band proper. Grenville (guitar) and Tim (drums) joined, and by this time last year the current lineup was playing together.
The most unusual fact about UM’s history to date is that, while they have only played a precious handful of concerts, they already have two six-track mini-albums released with national distribution. Gigs or not, people out there (description unknown) are buying the records.
“We decided that we wanted to record,” says Glen, “because no one would let us play anywhere, so we thought we might as well do something rather than just vegetate and sulk.” The reason they couldn’t, at that stage get gigs, was that the people who ran the venues consider it high risk to book original bands who might encourage the wrong crowd along.
The first record, which was released in December, has sold out of its first pressing and is into its second. The new record, Q: Are You A Fireman? is a substantial improvement on the first. Both records were recorded at Miramar’s 16-track Crescendo studios.
Says Grenville: “This time, we put all the tracks down, and then went away and thought about it for a couple of days, and listened to it. The first one we recorded in two nights, and when you record it, and mixing it you hear it a hell of a lot, after a while it starts washing over you and you don’t pick things up.”
The front cover of Q: Are You A Fireman? depicts a group of firefighters happily posing for photographs while the house behind them burns to destruction. This symbolises the human race, says Tim.
“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!”
The songs are mostly slow but lethal, Glen spitting out the lyrics with an embittered snarl. The band even devotes the opening track to a statement of intent: “We are anti-trend.” Other songs attack the various facets and tools of the forces of oppression. They are messages, torrents of anger.
Glen, who writes the lyrics, suggests that the music would be potent whatever the lyric content, but says “I like vocals which carry a message. If you’re going to have words, they might as well say something. I write bluntly so there won’t be as many misinterpretations of what I’m trying to say.”
But, for all that, Unrestful Movements are not dogmatic about their beliefs. The most they could hope for, they say, is that the lyrics will at least make people think. Says Glen: “There is not right and wrong. Everybody’s got an opinion.” And everybody has a right to express that opinion.
Unrestful Movements will continue on their course, away from the music mainstream and all the concessions and compromises that entails. They will probably never gain mass acceptance, or make a living out of their music.
But after all, that’s the difference between a music group and a business group.
Unrestful Movements play selected gigs in Wellington this month. GARY STEEL
Note from the author: I was such a pompous git back then. Hopefully I have changed at least a little. Still, there aren’t many pieces about Unrestful Movements.
* Don’t forget to check out www.audioculture.co.nz after May 31, where you’ll find a vast repository of NZ music history.