Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Because – as Elsewhere's favourite philosopher Ken Nordine put it -- “We all see the world from our own disadvantage point”, – we understand there are those who don't see the world from our perspective.
So we can happily accept that in Grant Smithies' excellent book Soundtrack: 118 Great New Zealand Albums – to which Elsewhere contributed some pieces – he singled out this Christchurch band's self-titled debut EP from '88 for favourable comment.
He also noted their Love Songs album of the previous year as “the most satisfying of this band's full-length albums”.
In another piece in the same book James Brown says this of our choice for a Jean-Paul Sartre Experience (aka JPS Experience as they were billed on this album) as an Essential Elsewhere Album: “The band eventually made a bid for a wider audience with the swishly recorded Bleeding Star . . . but there are no individually memorable tracks. And the pop chords quickly get boring. And the lyrics are crap”.
Well, everyone sees the world from their own disadvantage point and this album by Flying Nun band Jean-Paul Sartre Eexperience has always had repeat plays for its terrifically trippy, psyched-out and Manchester baggy influences.
Songs like the thrilling drone-pop Ray of Shine – which arrives with a Beatlesque harmony vocal announcement of the title (very Rain) and over a brittle guitar shimmer and some Stone Roses lope – evokes a period which blurs into a haze of E reminiscences and multicolour memories despite the odds.
The National government under Jim Bolger had been given a mandate in '90 and lasted three terms – damn near the whole decade – and all around there was a gloomy mood among the Left.
But people still went out and partied, and it was in those circumstances I first heard Bleeding Star.
The buzzing, hefty psych-guitar grabbed my attention immediately and the first song I locked into was Modus Vivendi which sounded like a slightly slowed down Archies' bubblegum pop song lacquered in distortion. I thought it funny . . . at a time when people took Flying Nun artists like these guys very seriously and neither expected nor wanted them to be funny.
Perhaps that – and its lavish production which very un-Nun – is why this album seemed to be better received abroad than it was at home.
Hefty and crunching electro-rock chords open Spaceman but they then shift to acoustically-framed neo-psychedelic dream pop (with backwards guitars) on Still Can't Be Seen, both easing past five and a half minutes.
Interestingly, U2's Achtung Baby and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless had both come out six months before the band's sessions in Auckland with co-producer Mark Tierney and you can hear their influences all across Bleeding Star.
But their sound came of as power-pop in a colourful shirt rubbing shoulders with paisley shoegaze on one side and the monochrome minimalism of the Velvet Underground on the other. Towards the end it is all dialed down for the dreamy Block and Angel.
I can think of no other such tripped-out New Zealand album of that period.
It bore no relationship to anything else going on around it (phasing!) nor much to their earlier material, maybe that's why fans of the previous EPs and two albums (Love Songs and The Size of Food) weren't so taken with it.
As with all the best and most enduring albums it is as irritating as it transporting.
I'd suggest Brown is wrong to say there are no individually memorable tracks (Ray of Shine, the title track elevated by a nagging guitar figure and Breathe all leap out as distinct) and that the pop chords get boring.
He may well be right about the lyrics but even though the CD came with them printed out I don't think I ever read them.
This was an album which just got stuck in the player on repeat play.
And it's still there.
I've waited two decades for the remix album that's just begging to be done.
Your disadvantage point will get very hazy indeed.
It's with real pleasure we can tell you that Fire Records in the UK -- in association with Flying Nun -- is going to be reissuing the three Jean-Paul Sartre Eexperience albums plus the EPs -- all remastered -- in a three CD box set.
I Like Rain; The Story of the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience will be released in early August.
The package comes with an oral overview of the group's career via interviews with band members, and of course photos etc.
For more information on this release -- which also comes in a vinyl version -- see Fire Records' website here.
The deep end won't be out of your depth . . .