SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

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Better Pickups by Salad Days
SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

Facing down an avalanche of releases, requests for coverage, the occasional demand that we be interested in their new album (sometimes with that absurd comment "but don't write about it if you don't like it") and so on, Elsewhere will every now and again do a quick sweep like this, in the same way it does IN BRIEF about international releases.

Comments will be brief.

Salad Boys; Metalmania (Trouble in Mind/Soutbound): With their post-Bats/Clean sound of urgent and mellow melodicism -- which you imagine might be written on acoustic guitars before given a power-pop punch -- this Christchurch band (out of T54, Dance Asthmatics and Bang! Bang! Eche!) are a long way removed from the suggestion behind their album title. And don't really move too far from their influences. The enduring international interest in Flying Nun has doubtless scored them the interest in the US and such, but on the evidence of this enjoyable, familiar but hardly groundbreaking album any affection here might be reserved to those who weren't there on the first (or even second) go-round.  Or those who just want to hear it all over again by a new generation. David Kilgour -- whom they have backed -- might want to see if a page from his old songbook is missing when he hears Better Pickups, among others.

Hopetoun Brown; Burning Fuse (Southbound): With little assistance beyond their own multi-instrumental multi-tracking, this duo of Tim Stewart (vocals, trumpet, trombone) and Nick Atkinson (bass clarinet, tenor sax, accordion, piano) formerly of Supergroove nail down a whole bunch of soulful, blues-influenced pop-length enjoyment which -- against the odds -- they can also deliver live. The warp and weave of the instrumental lines keep you guessing, the simple beats get you toe-tapping when not dancing and there's sometimes a witty playfulness as much as serious business. Recommended.

Gold Medal Famous; Deep in the Heart of Saturday Night (Powertools): The cover suggests the tile of this might actually be "Put Some Spice in Your Life" which might be appropriate too given GMF's predilection for the oddball end of the pop-rock alt end of the spectrum. Vorn Colgan, Tamsin Grigg and Chris Wilson obviously enjoy rummaging through pop styles (cheap synths and vocoder edging them into lightweight disco-dance sometimes) but even post-modernism and irony are improved by better raw material than is evident here. As always, you feel they are having more fun than you are.

 

Chris Priestley and the Unsung Heroes; Rogue (Ode): Auckland folk-singer and songwriter here delivers an excellent second installment to his documenting of stories from the margins and mainstream New Zealand's sometimes colorful past. His previous album-cum-booklet Unsung Heroes was excellent, and the quality of the writing and stories doesn't dip here in songs about Bully Hayes, Minnie Dean, Von Tempsky, Amy Bock (the notorious male impersonator) and other historical figures whose lives as pirate, highwayman, murderess, escaped convict and so on are not only worth recording and remembering but -- at this distance at least -- celebrating. Another quality presentation with period images and newspaper clippings.

 

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