The Tin Syndrome: Artefacts Which Reason Ate 1980-83 (Jayrem)

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The Tin Syndrome: Plastic Bag (1980)
The Tin Syndrome: Artefacts Which Reason Ate 1980-83 (Jayrem)

The Tin Syndrome were very much a Wellington band in a number of ways. Their reputation didn't translate much into the rest of New Zealand in the early Eighties, but more than that they also had what we might call "Wellington" concerns to the fore.

If you live in the capital city of any Western country you are bound to see a lot of men in grey suits (politicians, bureaucrats, party hacks and the like) and as a young person conclude they are plastic, conformist and not your type. They are targets, if somewhat obvious ones.

So on this musically interesting compilation of demos, singles and live recordings you get song titles like Man in Grey, Random Wellingtonian, The Rules, Wellington Again . . . 

It was one of those ironies of the period that people used the new machinery (computers, synths) to skewer others for their machine-like existence, as happens here.

The Tin Syndrome began as a post-punk band with more than a passing interest in the jerky rhythms of ska. But there was also something else going on: they took the quirky, stuttering off-beat sound of early Split Enz (and in the early days some of the pancake make-up look) one step further into skewed dance-pop with electronic squirts and fills in the manner of Brian Eno's noises in early Roxy Music.

Some of Mark Austin's vocal mannerisms recall Tim Finn, but the guitars (Austin, David Long) combined with Kevin McGill's snappy bass lines (and of course those synth squiggles and "orchestrations" by Peter Robinson) have stood up well. Drummer Malcolm Reid wasn't to be underestimnated either.

Of course it feels dated in places (it is arch electro-pop of its time, and you have to care about Wellington life in the early material) but this is certainly an impressively packaged look back. 

With some tracks having new vocals or parts added this also looks like it is slightly revisionist vanity publishing from former band members who have gone on and done usefully money-making projects. (There's also a "revived" CD edition of their '85 album No Ordinary Sickness released simultaneously.)

That's not a problem of itself because even though they were a footnote in New Zealand rock history, they were certainly interesting enough. Anyone wondering what Split Enz might have sounded like if they'd come from Wellington in the dancing electro-Eighties need only tune into this.

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