Graham Reid | | 1 min read
In one of the liner note essays here Ross Cunningham says when he first got a copy of Auckland band Hallelujah Picassos debut album Hateman in Love he kept playing it because "it sounded like a compilation".
I always felt the same.
Cunningham says he came to them through hip-hop, I'd heard them from the reggae direction but, again as Cunningham notes, when you saw them live you "believed them". Up there on the small stages they played, they gave it all in the manner of an angry rock band. And Lisa van der Aarde, formerly of bFM, says in her notes she enjoyed them because she'd always been a fan of garage music. Simon Grigg calls them "happy misfits" and says it was "both exhilarating and exhausting to be in their presence".
I always assumed you could still get their albums and CD singles simply because I had them and used to play random tracks on my radio show. But apparently they've all been out of print, which makes this cleverly programmed compilation brought together by the band's Peter McLennan (aka Dub Asylum) more than just interesting but essential.
Hard to believe there is a generation or two which have never heard the Picassos.
Emphasising their dark reggae and dub sound ("Murder!" is still an arresting opening line) up front, then diving into their raw guitar grit on Bastardiser, this one drops the hook then slowly reels you in for 18 diverse but oddly coherent tracks. A compilation from a band whose albums sounded like compilations, for sure . . . but this still sounds utterly coherent and from the same source.
Dark and sometimes malevolent they may have often seemed -- Harold's leathery personae and clothes doubtless enhanced the perception -- they could also be funny I thought (I'd cite Sister Stacey here by way of supporting evidence) and here -- wrapped in a cover by the late comix artist Martin Emond -- is evidence of their broad musical church: reggae, dub, garage, electro, wit and menace.
And Shivers could have come from a Flying Nun band like the Bats.
On the back cover is a photo of a live gig and on every face there is a glow of liberating enjoyment.
That sums them up too.
Oddly enough to coincide with this long overdue compilation the Herald has retrieved a '92 interview I did with them (here). McLennan says he finds it funny how serious they were back then.
I took them seriously, still do.