Pretty Wicked Head and the Desperate Men; New Age Savage (Independent distribution)

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Pretty Wicked Head and the Desperate Men: It's Okay It's Clean
Pretty Wicked Head and the Desperate Men; New Age Savage (Independent distribution)

My southern informant tells me this album by the Invercargill band with one of the best-ever names was originally released in 1990 and picked up two years later for national distribution in New Zealand by BMG.

Mostly recorded in Vancouver when the band were touring there for three months in '89, it has here been remastered and repackaged with a live DVD of a Canadian show and some bonus tracks -- and it was voted at the best album recorded by a Southland band in a 2010 Southland Times' readers poll.

And having read this wonderful book, I wouldn't want to mess with the taste and musical knowledge of those in the south.

The trio of singer-guitarist Shaun Kirkpatrick, drummer Vaughan Burtenshaw and fretless bassist Kane Kerr (guitarist and cover artist Pablo Kelly joined later) certainly delivered an album which joined the dots between the raucous sound of the region's Scottish history (the chest-baring Celtic rock of Rise and Shine on which you can almost imagine bagpipes), rocked-up New Wave reggae (Doesn't Mean To Say) and post-punk rock (It's Okay It's Clean).

And those are just the first three songs.

Elsewhere there are elements of folk (the edgy Keeps On Going) and some of Paul Weller's early songwriting sophistication (Mercy of the Moon Girl) alongside booze-driven and foot-stomping rock (Let's Go Slow) and the raw Don't Give Your Box Away among the bonus tracks. Their sole single was the terrific, punchy and cynical All New Zealand Heroes (the video of which was withdrawn for multiple breaches of broadcasting rules).

Neither the single nor album gained any traction but this reissue is persuasive evidence they coulda been contenders at the time, and while they certainly captured a rebellious punky spirit they weren't averse to speaking from the heart (Happy, one of the bonus tracks).

The half-hour DVD -- filmed for a Canadian TV show so of good quality -- confirms all that, and even if it looks like they are a large and empty studio before an almost mute audience they acquitted themselves with exceptional enthusiasm.

Pretty Wicked Head and the Desperate Men never officially broke up according to the liner notes here, but the gigs became more rare and Kane died in 2005.

But here is their legacy and -- as with so many of these albums and acts being retrieved from vaults and garages -- we are the richer for having heard it.

New Age Savage is available via Trevor Daley Musicworks, 30 Tay St., Invercargill. Or ($30 + postage)

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Ash Morrison - Sep 12, 2011

The sound generated by this 3 piece band live, was incredible, especially when the Southland crowd joined in. This is one of the few local originals bands where a high percentage of the audience actually knew the words to their songs. Shaun Kirkpatrick had great stage presence, having the audience in the palm of his hand. He could generate real snarl and menace on stage, and when this band played the local pubs you didn't ignore the music and chat to your mates. Congratulations to those responsible for bringing this music back, Chris, , Craig and Brendan, and to the sponsors, the Invercargill Licensing Trust, and the Southland Musicians Club.

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