The Changing Same – The Changing Same (Powertool) CD REVIEW

I SUSPECT THERE are many NZ music fans of the ‘80s whose only exposure to the Flying Nun label and the “Dunedin sound” was the group Sneaky Feelings. While the group’s music shared some of that familiar alt-rock strum, the group’s influences were American West Coast folk-rock groups like The Byrds, rather than the arty grunge of East Coast outfits like the Velvet Underground. In other words, on Flying Nun, they were the proverbial fish out of water.
Sneaky Feelings seemed to get less interesting as their instrumentation got slicker, and the harmonies more tightly meshed, but their first album, Send You (1984) is a rough-hewn classic of introverted relationship songs that still stands up all these years later. As does the short-lived ‘90s project of the group’s singer-songwriter, Matthew Bannister, the Dribbling Darts Of Love, whose ’93 album Present Perfect is still funny and affecting.
The Changing Same is a three piece that Bannister formed after moving to Hamilton some years ago, and the 10 songs on the self-titled debut are considerably simpler and more direct that his previous work, and often come from a moody, troubling place.
The sound of his voice is so distinctive that it provides a thread of aural continuity, despite the differences in the sound overall. Because of the more expansive dynamics available through the simpler instrumentation, the songs tend to really burst out into flurries of noise or guitar scree in the bars between verse and chorus, and that’s a good thing.
Bannister still writes songs in an almost conversational way, and he always finds subjects that break out of the typical lovelorn mold. There are a few really comedic tracks, like ‘Hillcrest’, an ode to the Hamilton suburb: “Living in Hillcrest/Over the hill/You can go to the library/If you need a thrill.” Then there’s ‘I Wanna Be A Guru’, because “no-one tells you what to do.” When he does get all sad it’s on songs like ‘Left Behind’, which rams home the fact that when couples split, there’s almost always one person who doesn’t want it to end.
The Changing Same isn’t that great post-Sneaky Feelings album that some might have been hoping for. Its ambitions are firmly in check, and it’s a modest wee thing. But Bannister hasn’t lost his knack with song, and it’s a charming, comforting thing to have kicking around. GARY STEEL
Music = 3.5/5
Sound = 3.5/5

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