The idea? Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month and 38 years of his own rancid opining and reportage, Gary Steel will present something from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. In August 1999, The Listener published my (then) 10 favourite NZ records. Here it is, again.
The B-side of 1972 smash hit ‘Dance Around The World’, this was the finest hour for Bruno Lawrence’s Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition, and everything you could hope for from a ’70s hippie classic: co-composed by Lawrence and keyboardist Chris Sereson, and featuring the howling voice of acid demon Corben Simpson, this song had it all – progressive chord and tempo changes, wild electric piano, screaming guitar solos, and a madly utopian message.
‘Ride The Rain’, Quincy Conserve.
Another Bruno Lawrence composition, from 1969. An awesome jazz/rock concoction utilising Malcolm Hayman’s uniquely cigarette-flecked voice and a horn section that sounds positively gangrenous, plus one of the best wah-wah guitar solos ever.
This 1967 single is a wonderment of pop melancholy. They don’t make ’em like this any more, and the beautiful anthemic single for teen idol Larry (very soon to be locked inside for LSD trafficking) had a unique vibe.
‘The Nose One’, Shoes This High.
“I just follow my nose/Don’t care about my clothes/I close my eyes/I fall asleep/I don’t see NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING!” The perfect Kiwi punk record came out in 1980 and the sound was more Captain Beefheart meets The Fall than anything remotely Sex Pistols. Featuring Brent Hayward (later known as Smelly Feet and Kiwi Animal before delving into outrageous experimental film making) on vocals.
“The whole world’s been covered in concrete/And it’s too cold to sit!” sang Brent Hayward in conceptual troubadour mode for this 1982 single. Distinctive voice with beautiful nasal Kiwi whine, and a dadaist Fred Dagg perspective.
‘Can’t Find Water’, Great Unwashed.
From their 1984 EP, what this post-Clean gathering manage still mystifies me today. This inevitably ’60s/Velvets blend easily transcends its influences, and it’s trippy, strange stuff. Kill riffs, too.
‘Adults & Children’, The Gordons.
In 1980, three-piece The Gordons came blasting out of Christchurch with an art-punk attitude, and a sound so sonically challenging that it still sounds too damn loud. Great anti-consumerist lyrics, too: “Adults and children/Over 12/Take your tablets/Every four hours/Read the schedule/And use the bathroom/You’re sweebreads now/You’re kitsets now,” they roar.
One of the most affecting, gorgeous, naked vocal performances ever recorded in NZ, and one of the loopiest lyrics, the original version of this early ’90s song melted the heart. Then she made a rather ordinary album and dropped out.
‘Spellbound’, Split Enz.
From their debut album Mental Notes (1975). Phil Judd’s performances on this tail-end is still gloriously strange and maladjusted all these years on. The prototypical artistic expression of a particular Kiwi kind of mute alienation, this song captivated with its backwards vocals leading up to the demented locked groove at the end.
Singer/songwwriter meets the electronic generation on this 1998 track – still seen lurking around student radio bFM’s top 10 chart – wherein Sean Donnelly combines his own haunting, Roy Orbison-ish singing with a sampled cornucopia of backwards guitars and ethereal choirs.