Cassandra’s Ears – The Cassandra’s Ears Story (Blind Date) CD REVIEW

So many great, and/or interesting NZ recordings end up out of print, and therefore pretty much out of the public’s consciousness. It’s great, therefore, when someone finds the masters of a long unavailable record, and reissues them in a package that denotes love and respect.

In this case, that honour belongs to Jan Hellriegel, of the Blind Date label, who admittedly does have more than just a curatorial interest: Cassandra’s Ears were the first stirrings of her considerable talent.

The all-woman band (well, apart from the odd stray male) was based in Dunedin in the mid-‘80s, but for some reason that goes unexplained in the generous liner notes, the group’s two EPs were released via Wellington’s Jayrem rather than Flying Nun.

Musically, Cassandra’s Ears do share some hallmarks with their Dunedin brethren; some rather “loose” ideas of performance “chops”, and an aesthetic (a tendency towards the mysterious-sound and inward-looking subject matter). While they came a few years later, and don’t sound quite so amateur, there’s no easy way to get around the fact that Cassandra’s Ears sound a little bit like Look Blue Go Purple. That’s no bad thing, however, as LBGP at their best were as charming and meaningful as anything on the label, just rather musically ramshackle with it.

Around the edges of their two EPs, however, is a nascent Hellriegel with pop smarts and a punchy rock attitude that was somewhat at odds with the Dunedin scene, although the emergent Westie Gal is fairly well submerged on Private Wasteland and its followup Your Estimation, both reproduced in full here (but not in original running order).

It’s not world-beating stuff, and it’s easy to see why some members of the band went off to careers other than performing in rock bands. Still, from this distance the music contains considerable qualities, and for scholars of NZ music history, this is a welcome reissue. GARY STEEL

Music = 3

Sound = 2.5

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