Graham Reid | | 1 min read
While I have yet to hear the album, I found it very easy to walk away from Opposom at this year's Laneway Festival asking myself, "If it wasn't who we know it is up there, would we really care?"
I found them dull and the songs incomplete . . . and anyway I wanted to see Auckland band Sherpa who drew a much smaller but more appreciative crowd -- and not just because singer-frontman Earl Ho was wearing what women in the Sixties would call a muumuu. (A loose tent-style dress from Hawaii.)
With their prog tendencies we could have been witnessing the rise of kaftan rock.
I've seen Ho a few times previously and thought he was mad and enjoyable, but on the day Sherpa suffered the most common afflicition of many young bands. The songs keep shifting focus as if to prove they can do it, and perhaps to show they aren't just typically pop or rock.
Later I saw them side of stage when the Horrors played and hoped they noted the obvious: despite what we might think of the Horrors (and I thought they were Teardrop Explodes, actually), they would hit a song and stick with it, and people danced because it was recognisably going somewhere.
So, Sherpa's debut album then?
Much more focused, enjoyable, pop-like and mature than that otherwise enjoyable set. A real pleasant surprise.
Yes, some songs spin off in a new direction at times -- It's All Good G, In Dolphins He Trusts, I'm Becoming More Like an Animal, I'm Happy Just to Lie -- but when they average at somewhere fewer than three minutes they don't get much opportunity. The pop economy suits them well, especially on the scene-setting, rapid fire opener Turner which is propelled by sten-gun drumming.
Sherpa toy with tricky New Wave energy (the Blondie-on-speed Samsong) but also filter it through pure pop (the delightfully dreamy and radio-friendly Lunar Bats, Chalk) and aren't averse to some stomping and distorted rock (Tree) or throwing in some economic synth-swish'n'splatter for added colour (Guarantee).
Yes, some missteps and songs which don't work, but for a debut after a promising EP, this is a step up and much more tightly focused than what I saw live. A real pleasant surprise on many fronts.
Maybe Opossom can surprise me too?
Sherpa's Lesser Flamingo is a limited edition CD available from here, where you can also download copy.