Ha The Unclear; Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go (bandcamp)

 |   |  1 min read

Ha the Unclear: Mortality (A Million Years Ago)
Ha The Unclear; Bacterium, Look At Your Motor Go (bandcamp)

And now for something completely different . . .

Singer-songwriter Michael Cathro who fronts this oddly-named band is a real one-off.

His accent is unashamedly antipodean: He pronounces the Dunedin suburb "Core-sto-feen" as is the habit there, in Edinburgh it's the suburb I was born in and is "ki-store-fin".

And his vocal limitations have a real charm as he alludes to melodies while the band deliver pure pop backdrops of "ba-daa-dah" while he cracks with emotion.

His is a very skewed worldview (singing about a coffee table would be odd enough from Robyn Hitchcock/Soft Boys but singing from the viewpoint of the coffee table . . ?) and songs entitled Growing Mould, Once We Were School Kids Drunk on Youth and Friendship, and Girls Who Smoke Strange Things hint at the breadth of his vision.

He can be wistful (85 is sung from the perspective of an old woman -- Catholic? -- waiting for her husband to die and reflecting on the highs and lows of their life, shorn of sentiment) but also a kind of pragmatic cynic (Apostate, originally recorded by their previous band Brown).

What makes all this so special is not just the interesting lyrics but how these songs are couched in clever, slightly familiar backdrops of pop guitars, sometimes sweet pop harmony vocals as a counterpoint to the blunt language, and a real integrity in his delivery. And the Kiwi vernacular.

Infatuated is a genuinely lovely song, almost a mini-epic, about a gentle heart breaking. And more.

This is the kind of music that gives "bedroom" projects a very good name. 

Make sure you hear it at the link below. Take your time with it, it's a grower. 

Ha the Unclear's album is available to listen to and buy from here. They play November 2 at the Waitakere Festival in Auckland and at Meow, Wellington on November 8. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Bob Dylan's 31st studio album in the 44 years since his self-titled folkie debut -- confirms his status as one of the great songwriters whose powers are undergoing a late-career reinvigoration.... > Read more

British Sea Power: from the sea to the land beyond (Rough Trade)

British Sea Power: from the sea to the land beyond (Rough Trade)

This UK group consistent delivered mature, diverse and largely overlooked but fine pop-rock albums, but have also made interesting digressions into soundtracks for old films, notably their music... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: I'm a Man (2006)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: I'm a Man (2006)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have not been short of greatest hits, collections, a bio-doco or a box set anthology. So in 2009 when the four CD set Live Anthology rolled around you might be... > Read more

The Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (1980)

The Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (1980)

Pub quiz time and your starter for 10 points: Who was the drummer in Talking Heads? “Okay there was David Byrne and . . . Tina Weymouth on bass and . . . Any of you guys know?”... > Read more