RECOMMENDED REISSUE: The Stones; Three Blind Mice (Flying Nun)

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The Stones: Everywhere Man
RECOMMENDED REISSUE: The Stones; Three Blind Mice (Flying Nun)

Of the four bands on the famous Flying Nun Dunedin Double EP – recorded in the front room of a Christchurch flat in '82 -- the Stones looked to be here for a good time but not a long time.

Consider how the bands represented themselves on the cover space given them.

Both the Verlaines and the Chills chose to get artistic and serious (the former with sheet music, the latter with lyrics) and Sneaky Feelings – who had serious pop aspirations – adopted a homegrown straight-on photo shot like Beatles for Sale.

The Stones however took the cover of the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street and created their own version of that famous photomontage.

They pasted images over the top of it which showed them clowning around.

stonesThey even managed to get the running order of their four songs wrong, but it hardly mattered because their music was such lo-fi fun you'd forgive them most things.

The Stones had been around for about a year at that point, but within a year of the Dunedin Double being released they'd broken up. Guitarist Wayne Elsey – who had previously played in Bored Games with his school pal Shayne Carter – formed the Double Happys with Carter.

And the Stones disappeared to become one of the most immediately forgotten of all the early Flying Nun bands.

When Elsey – still only 21 – was killed in an accident in '85 the effectively ended the conversation about the Stones.

Yet those four songs on the Dunedin Double have proved to be enduringly enjoyable for their unabashed amateurism, primitivism – somewhere between the Velvet Underground and the early Clean – and potential. The five-minute Down and Around is a minor classic with allusions to Joy Division.

That's what makes this 18-song compilation – pulled together by Bruce Russell who writes the liner essay, with Carter writing a reminiscence – so valuable.

Here are the five songs from the band's Another Disc Another Dollar EP, the four from the Double, and the last half are live recordings (two from when they supported New Order in December '82 at Victoria University).

The Stones might have had a limited palette to work with but they certainly didn't lack ambition as the swirling eight and half minutes of their neo-psych/VU implosion on Fad World proved. Graeme Anderson was a clever drummer who could hold down the beat but also dropped some smart fills, and bassist Jeff Batts could sometimes play like a lead guitarist, hence those Joy Division comparisons. Check out Everywhere Man -- one of their opening set before New Order -- if you doubt it.

There was more than a little post-teen cynicism and pessimism in the Stones too (Something New, Final Days) but the raw edges and focus elevated their sound: there's something of the Gang of Four in some of these songs . . . and it does make you wonder how far they might have gone (other than around New Zealand) if they'd stuck with it.

All the elements were there and in the live tracks you can hear how they could effortlessly stretch and shapeshift like the Clean.

But with a more devil-may-care attitude.

Nope, not here for a long time . . . but for a time they were very good.

To buy Three Bind Mice on CD or vinyl see here

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Greg Cooke - May 12, 2015

Great stuff Graham.
I saw The Stones open for John Cooper Clarke, and New Order, at Victoria University sometime in the early 1980's. Can't remember much of their musical style, but definitely thought they needed to change their name!

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