Monday, October 01, 2007

Smoke signals

Shocking Pinks - You Can Make Me Feel Bad

Shocking Pinks - Smokescreen

I always feel proud when I see a release from my own country getting props. Even though I'm from New Zealand originally I feel pretty attached to a lot of Australian music now. But yes, my real senseless patriotism is in New Zealand music. There are a lot of swell bands coming out of the place but also a whole lot of shit ones, too. There's a campaign by the New Zealand government - 'New Zealand Music Month' - where most radio stations crank up their local rotation and where everyone gets on the bandwagon of local music even if for the other eleven months they couldn't care less. Christchurch (where I'm from) has a great community radio station called RDU 98.5fm. For their NZ Music Month celebrations they ran a campaign entitled 'Some New Zealand Music Is Shit'. Too right, and a good way to be genuinely supportive of the music that actually deserves it. Anyway, The Shocking Pinks are a band from Christchurch. They formed four or so years ago now and have recently signed to DFA/Astralwerks (BIG TIME BRO). They're getting a lot of hype on sites like Pitchfork and deservedly so. Nick Harte, the brains behind it, really is a talented musician.

Yes, there have been numerous people to have played in The Shocking Pinks, most of whom were basically kicked out by Nick. It was always his project. He's the sort of guy who everyone in a small town like Christchurch would have something to say about. It's easy to rag on him; worryingly skinny, wears sunglasses, publically talks (read by most as 'boasts') about probz with heroin, an overly detached drawl, etc. etc. etc... It's tall poppy syndrome. The music is amazing.

Their first album Dance The Dance Electric was definitely a group thing; five members contributed to create skuzzy dancepunk with disco basslines and bongo freakouts usually stretching out to dance track lengths of six or seven minutes. There was a whole bunch of shoegaze guitars chucked in by a guy whose name I forget who played in a terrific post-rock band called Substandard (this is going back four or five years now). There was a rad asian guy who played free-jazz sax at a number of gigs. There were killer basslines, a lot of dancing, and this is a big deal in a tiny tiny place like Christchurch, where more than anything people want to grab onto some culture of identity, or at least that's what I found growing up there.

Shocking Pinks divides time between lovesick and often melodramatic pop and fucking wild dance/disco-punk, the ill-fated genre that actually sort of makes sense to be described by this tag. 'You Can Make Me Feel Bad' is the highlight for me as far as this pop goes, a truly aching ballad that even with the knowledge of Nick's penchant for the pretentious is quite stunning. [edit: Shea points out that this is actually an Arthur Russell cover; silly me. Still, it's definitely made his own]'Smokescreen' is the most dancefloor orientated track and the most DFA sounding on the new record (which is a combination of tracks from the second and third Shocking Pinks releases, some tracks reworked or rerecorded) and this is the Shocking Pinks I like the most. Dance The Dance Electric really is amazingly good and when the band surfaced in Christchurch a few years back it really felt like something was going on. There probably was something noticeable for a while, but after the other members of the band left or were kicked out it sort of fell apart a bit because of erratic live performances that often discarded this disco-punk for ridiculously long and self indulgent distortion fests. It's pulled together now, though, and is really worth checking out. I'm not just waving a New Zealand flag.


shea said...

hey rich,
fyi, "you can make me feel bad" is an arthur russlel cover. you can watch the video for the original on youtube, it is OUT THERE. also, infinity land is the best album by far bro!

richard said...

ah! that makes it even cooler. it's pretty amazing what he's done with it after hearing the original.

good to see i know what im talking about