Various Artists: Keepin' Secrets, A Failsafe Records Sampler (Failsafe/bandcamp)

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All Gone Now, by Deluxe Boy
Various Artists: Keepin' Secrets, A Failsafe Records Sampler (Failsafe/bandcamp)

Subtitled “best kept secrets in NZ alternative music”, this always good and sometimes excellent collection from Rob Mayes' Failsafe vaults gathers tracks by the well-known (Jay Clarkson's Breathing Cage, Throw, Springloader, Dolphin) alongside blinked'n'missed 'em (Eskimo, Astro 64, Hooster and many others).

But a check in the margins uncovers some familiar names: Dave Mulcahy (JPSE, Superette) in Eskimo, Ed Castelow (Dictaphone Blues, his wonderful Mirth album earlier this year) in Degrees K, and Mayes himself everywhere who you may suspect started a label so he could record his own songs and bands.

There are worse reasons for starting a label and more profitable ways to make a living. 

From the terrific opener by Deluxe Boy which pulls the chords from the Who's Baba O'Riley for All Gone Now, a wry song about lost dreams, to Chameleon's dream-pop Gladwrap at the end, this is fine collection of melodic power-pop and shoegaze . . . much more approachable and mainstream guitar-driven pop-rock than the “alternative” description suggests.

In a better world more attuned to such pop-rock, these could be all over radio.

There is plenty of economic and song-driven rock here to satisfy any road trip: the slightly droning power-pop of Throw (Anything For You); the more head-down sound of Springloader (One More Thing) and Atomic Blossom (the sonic gristle of Space); the ethereal folk-pop of Leigh Franklin whose You See Leaves still sounds contemporary in the world of Lorde and Reb Fountain; the early Cure-into-explosive rock of Alpha Cast on the taut Inside Your Mind; the dark and hard rock of Hooster (Rotate) . . . and others.

Breathing Cage's cleverly constructed Memory Lane further confirms what a talent Jay Clarkson is (her reissued Kindle from '99 available now on vinyl).

But wait's there's more.

Check out this swirling beauty.

Global Research Systems, by Substandard

Elsewhere has observed this before but it warrants repeating: Failsafe recorded more great music than its low profile in New Zealand music deserves.

This is the kind of sampler which allows you to find bands which you can connect with, then explore further.


You can hear and buy songs and albums by these artists at Failsafe's bandcamp page. This 2005 album, reissued last year, is here

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