Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Subtitled “Alternative Music from Christchurch New Zealand 1980-1984”, this excellent double CD collection – remastered from the original cassette by Rob Mayes of Failsafe – is very timely in the year Flying Nun celebrates its 40thanniversary.
During the Eighties the indie sound and approach of Flying Nun was widely embraced by critics, student radio and audiences. But its success did marginalise other indie labels – like Failsafe – whose catalogues were just as interesting in their own way, and arguably even more diverse during the period covered here.
The decade didn't belong to Nun exclusively so this collection – which includes early tracks by Nun bands like the Bats and Pin Group (their cover of War's Low Rider) – brings the noise of Christchurch (where Nun founder Roger Shepherd lived, ironic given Nun's association with “the Dunedin sound”) during this exciting period.
In a cover with an essay by Mayes giving the background to the clubs, bars and bands -- and why the scene imploded – this 27-song collection delivers some real thrills.
The Triffids (not the Australian band) come across with their furious Hide Out, the ska influence is here (the Venetians' Suspect) as is melodic post-punk thrash (the Playthings' Monastic), hints of emerging New Wave behind the noisecore (the Newtones exciting All Over the World), raggedy pop (Channel 4's You Were the One, Clients' 20thCentury Allergy), punk fury (Unauthorised's Militant Takeover), early Goth monochrome (Alien's Charades) . . .
There are also Big Name Bands here, albeit many in their earliest days: the short-lived Gordons (the throb'n'twang of Machine Song), Androidss (Mr Fish), Shaft (Imagination), Dance Exponents (the poppy Social Life), NRA (Glow) and Ballon D'Essai (the urgent rumble of Modern Days).
If your definition of Big Name Bands is inclusive or coloured by fond memories you could add the Johnnies (Govt Don't Care), Youth for Christ (Anthem), They Were Expendable and the idiosyncratic Haemogoblins to that list.
Rob Mayes' Failsafe was an enormously productive, if sometimes overlooked, label in the Eighties and in recent years he has been re-presenting the catalogue through bandcamp from his home in Japan.
There's a lot of care given also – this double-gatefold also comes with an insert booklet which includes brief band bios, photos, posters, cartoons and so on.
A reminder that a lot of music from this period was unconstrained, enthusiastic and beholden to no particular school of thought.
A collection which will also answer the grandchildren's question: “What did you listen to during the post-punk wars?”
You can hear and buy this album at Failsafe's comprehensive bandcamp page
There is more on Failsafe albms at Elsewhere starting here.