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Shocking Pinks – S/T

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

DFA Records, 2007

A lightly appealing cover of a pencil sketch gives off the air of indie pop, yet the band name may disagree.  I know of a particular personal photo from my younger days where I happened to be wearing a pink Adidas t-shirt and, yes, a pink pair of swim trunks.  I was shockingly pink (but unshockingly lacking style … ah well, what can you do).  Therefore, this band’s moniker had a slight twinge of personal connection, so I had no choice than to pick it up.  I also promised to make a mental note to refrain from accidentally coordinating bright colored clothing concoctions in the future.  I will leave those for an eighties retro party.

Shocking Pinks are not shocking in their volume or their approach, but hey, it’s a fine band name for an indie pop outfit.  With its tone of low fi pop, the third album from the one man band Nick Harte is filled with songs that range from casual pieces of softness to fervent chaos.  I suppose one there’s only one person running the show there’s no reason not to do whatever that person wants.  It’s clear that Harte knows this well.

“Second Hand Girl” is a fantastic pop song that reminds me of some Slanted & Enchanted-era Pavement with its catchy guitar and the unimposing vocals from Nick Harte.  There’s only about eight lines of lyrics, so most of the song is made up of the band going at it and allowing the listener to create the visual story in their heads.  The lengthy “Cutout” instrumental tune is also quite good, if only because its quick and pretty collection of sounds doesn’t include any interruption from lyrics.

“Yes! No!” is at first engaging yet doesn’t execute well.  The brooding synthesizer tones, in conjunction with the consistent drum pattern, gives the tune an ominous feeling early on.  Unfortunately, Harte’s voice comes across as too hurried and whiny when trying to keep up with the song’s pace.  Combined with some uncomfortable sounds between verses makes this tune a “No!” for me.

One tune that struck me as something that Harte could excel at if he stuck with it is “You Could Make Me Feel Bad”, which combines his creative instrumentation as well as a good utilization of his vocals through subdued echos.  Indeed, the track sounds like a Jesus and Mary Chain concoction, but as the last track of the album it leaves a good impression of what Harte is capable of.  Actually, the entire record does.  It would be a matter of finding out which styles he prefers to hang onto from here on out.

Shocking Pinks have a MySpace page and, ah, that’s about it.  Well, maybe websites are passe.

I can appreciate a guy like Harte who is talented enough to play multiple instruments and compose pretty pop songs.  Not all of them are my thing, but I can see where someone who likes his somewhat fey voice and musicianship might like most of the record.  Shocking Pinks actually haven’t put out anything since this record, so it remains to be seen if Harte emerges with the same or a different group.  All I know is that I’m not emerging at any point whatsoever in my shocking pink outfit of old.  Okay, okay, show me the dollars.

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The Datsuns – Self-Titled

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

V2 Records, 2002

You pull out this record and you tell me you’re not digging that album cover?  Say what?  Look, there’s some raggedy-haired guys on the top of their band name aaaand they’re raggedy on the bottom too!  Speaking honestly, I like that black-and-white mirror effect.  Considering they likely named themselves after the sporty Datsun roadster, there isn’t much of a conclusion to make other than that these guys are a rock ‘n roll band.  What do you know, I like that stuff.

Based out of New Zealand, the debut from the Datsuns is everything one can expect from a debut garage rock band anywhere.  They make lots of noise, they prove they have plenty of energy, and they certainly wish to make an audio impact.  You have heard these guys before in other bands, but perhaps the fact that they’re from New Zealand will sway you that these guys are different from the usual American spinoffs.

The record begins with force as one might expect from a band that is out to prove itself to your ears.  “Sittin’ Pretty” begins with an excellent guitar riff that drums up steadily to a blazing speed.  It’s a great three minute intro to a slew of similar three minute songs.  However, Dolf De Borst’s vocals increase from mid-range to higher ranges as each song progresses.  By the time the listener gets to  “Harmonic Projector”, De Borst with a flutter in his voice.  Oh man.  The band thankfully exacts its powerful strength to drown him out a bit in “What Would I Know”, which showcases the group in its first prolonged rock effort.  Finally, the Datsuns have stepped it up a bit.

De Borst gets a little screamy after awhile on “At Your Touch” and “Fink For the Man”, which doesn’t diminish from the power groove the band puts on.  Still, you would think De Borst wouldn’t have to sound like his fingers got caught in a car door to get the zeal across.  As De Borst’s voice gets higher and higher one starts to tune him out as over-excessive.  Plus, after repeated listens of “Fink” one will wonder if the guy finally pops into an explosion of bloody guts.  Hey, it’s possible.  Really though … could use less scream, pal.

Despite the somewhat pedestrian first half of the record, the Datsuns really excel near the end.  By this time one has heard everything they could have thrown at the listener, so usually bands just regurgitate the same stuff or try to get artsy with a few quirky tunes that everyone inevitably hates.  The Datsuns choose to ramp it up even louder.  The songs “In Love”, “You Build Me Up (to Bring Me Down)” and the epic “Freeze Sucker” act as ignition/blastoff that sends the band off into rockout space.  These are really good tunes, and “Freeze Sucker” doesn’t get dull even after six minutes.  Regardless of what one thinks of the album as a whole, at least the Datsuns know what gets us to listen in the first place.

Listen to them on MySpace and read all about them on their website if you’d like.

Although the Datsuns’ debut is definitely a good time, they may not stand out as something one would pursue.  One might even say these guys were simply part of that Jet/Hives wave of garage revival and never caught on because they got drowned out from the rest of the long-haired rockers.  However, the Datsuns are still making records and touring in New Zealand!  That’s got to mean something, eh?  At least they’re big somewhere and are influencing youth to form their own garage bands.  Perhaps this means that some kind of new AC/DC will be sprung upon us in the near future thanks to these guys.  Oh never mind, they’re Australian… some other famed New Zealand rock band, then.

The D4 – 6Twenty

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Infectious Records Ltd, 2003

New Zealand.  Quick, name two bands from that country.  And no, the New Zealanders don’t count and neither does We Ain’t Aussies, though there may be a band by those names already.  Yet here we are with a group called the D4, who look like they could really be from everywhere given their simple t-shirts, haircuts, and tattoos.  But wait, there is a guy with a mutton chop hair thing going on, so perhaps that could have tipped me off that they weren’t from around here.  Regardless of their look, the exceptionally sharp red and black contrast is a real eye-jarring look that at least makes one think that the band might be edgy.  That, or they knew there were color contrast suckers like me.

The band doesn’t waste too much time colliding into your senses with its extremely rushed “RnR MF” opener, which you can easily interpret despite the acronyms.  There isn’t much to distinguish this song from, say, every garage punk song you’ve heard before.  The singer prefers to blend in with the band and doesn’t make any real attempt at standing out with vocal displays.  The band also likely wouldn’t let him take a dramatic breath either, for they just pound through each song once “RnR MF” is quickly over.  Songs like “Get Loose”, “Come On!” and “Invader Ace” all have that max excitement element, but one would be hard pressed to depict which song is better than the others.  Once “Heartbreaker” rolls around the band finally decides to utilize the slow build up.

Arguably the best song on the record, “Heartbreaker” begins with a riff that may have been ripped from Devo’s “Mongoloid”, but it is quite welcome considering the blitzkrieg the listener has just been through.  The band takes its time getting to the chorus, which you know is coming with a bang, and finally delivers with an escalation of the lead vocalist, a pair of guitars, and some backing vocals to boot.  Great song.  The band varies its approach after that song with a more bluesy “Ladies Man” and a New York Dolls-tinged “Pirate Love”.  They actually slow down a bit compared to the blast off at the beginning of the record, so it is almost as if the band wanted to keep you interested initially as long as possible before trying to delve into slightly more creative compositions.  It still mostly sounds the same throughout, which is cut and dry garage rock.

Check out a few tunes from these guys on their MySpace page.

Well, it is understandable that this band has found its debut record in so many dollar bins.  It is a perfectly fine rock record that typifies the modern genre and will get one’s energy up.  However, it is completely indistinguishable from records that have come before it.  There’s nothing wrong with developing a similar sound to past bands, but it certainly doesn’t get anyone to think twice about letting the record go when it comes to making a choice.  The band has not let this mass dump off get to them at the time, though, for they did manage to release another record in 2005.  It does seem that they haven’t done anything more recently, so that may be it for the brash D4.  They may not do much for the seasoned rock fan, but if there’s someone younger who you know is just exploring this rabid garage sound, it’s worth a cheap gift.

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