HIGHWAY 80s REVISITED (2021): Failsafe's alternatives to the alternative

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Comfortable Chair, by Spatback
HIGHWAY 80s REVISITED (2021): Failsafe's alternatives to the alternative

Further to Failsafe Records' recent double CD/bandcamp release Accident Compilation: Alternative Music from Christchurch New Zealand 1980-1984 come two more such collections: the double CD Biding Our Time: New Zealand Alternative Music Compilation 1984-1986 and single disc, South: Alternative Music in Christchurch 1986-1987.

The first of these – expanded from the download version of a few years ago – picks up some enjoyably lo-fi and mostly live recordings by some very familiar names.

So here are Bird Nest Roys and the Stones (the acquired tastes of Love Your Alien and Route 69 respectively), Sneaky Feelings with the excellent, five minute-plus Broken Man (with a somewhat unfashionably rockist guitar solo), the always-poppy Dance Exponents (Only I Could Love You), Jean Paul Sartre Experience ( a live Flex), the enthusiastic pop wall-of-noise from Double Happys, the Chills (thrashing through I'll Only See You), Sneaky Feelings, Children's Hour (manically declamatory like migraine Pere Ubu on Gutter Puppet), the Bats, Jay Clarkson . . .

a1259614027_16Here too the chipper Spines (Parties and Parties); the drill-dance funk of the Triffids (Backstreets) and Mea Culpa (Do It Clean); Spatback (never heard of 'em) on the free-wheeling instrumental Comfortable Chair with a sax attack which is too short at 2.40; the eight minute-plus slow-creep assault of the Jefferies' brothers Nocturnal Projections' Words Fail Me recorded at Auckland's Mainstreet (I think I was there) . . . and many more (including the gifted and clever Crane) .

And of course some endurance tests.

That's in the nature of such inclusive collections. But as someone who respects an inclusive history, it's far better to have all this than not.

South is more specific, just bands recorded in Christchurch (which is kinda inclusive of course).

a1452580547_16So welcome in the boundary-pushing and technology-embracing Tinnitus (Mike Hodgson later of Pitch Black, and producer Angus McNaughton) with their dense and soon-future sound on Function 1-2-3; the Camellias with the cleanly recorded Cried; Tall Dwarfs with a live Bats-enhanced version of Song of the Silents; Breathing Cage's engrossing Raise the Glass (Jay Clarkson, what a talent); archetypal folk-rock Bats (Best Friend's Brain) and the lesser known Leadleg, Hiding From Stan, the Greens, Skin Darlings . . .

Genie and the Wild Children sound like they coulda-been serious pop contenders . . . but for some of them Squirm and Supertanker awaited.

Promise unfulfilled however.

When listening through to all this music which rose up, blossomed or died on the vine you have to acknowledge there were some real talents afoot . . . but many withered while some lesser but more persistent and aggressive talents came through.

And, as the royal family might observe, some “rose above their station”.

Okay, let's be clear here: these ragged live recordings find some of the vocalists in shonky voice, and the sonic range can be as annoying as your treble-high tinnitus.

But win, lose or draw on this stuff, almost four decades on we should be glad to have it available as a reminder, memento or just a noisy document to play to subsequent generations.

It'll annoy the bejeezus out of them.



Rob Mayes of Failsafe only does very limited editions of the CDs but these collections and many others in the on-going Failsafe reissue series are at the label's bandcamp page.

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