Tuesday 26 March 2013

Mad Scene "Blip"

Maybe it's silly, but I've been feeling guilty for most of the last 12 months for not heralding the Mad Scene's tremendous "Blip" (Siltbreeze).  It's a feeling which intensifies a little each time I see an unsold copy in the racks of a record store.  Had Not Unloved's favourite lps of 2012 list been fairer and more accurately reflected the amount of turntable time that the records actually got, "Blip" would have been placed near the top.  In many ways it was the archetypal Not Unloved 2012 record given that it features The Clean's drummer Hamish Kilgour and for a period it seemed like every second record I bought featured musicians from New Zealand.  Albums by The Great Unwashed, Gate, The Pin Group, Roy Montgomery, The Clean, David Kilgour etc. were all snapped-up, devoured and loved.  From memory, "Blip" is the most enjoyable Velvet Underground echo I've heard since Royal Baths' "Litanies" a few years ago and there's a discernible musical kinship with groups like The Pastels, Yo La Tengo  (not too surprising, I guess, as Georgia Hubley was part of Mad Scene for "Blip"!) and even Sonic Youth (or is it Versus?) on "Fontaine".  Nothing is over-cooked and most songs are approached with an endearing naivety, although"T Rex" - the album's most rollicking song - rattles along with a purposeful curled lip and benefits from some pleasingly snarly lead guitar work. In the main, Kilgour handles vocal duties but the album's most beautiful moment "Quiet Day" is sung by Lisa Seigel and rivals Kendra Smith's finest work for sorrowful, slightly psychedelic beauty. Saying that it's my favourite song on the record feels akin to sheepishly confessing that the cover song your friend's band just did was the highlight of their set but, I guess, it's true so I shouldn't feel shy about saying it.  Curiously, "Cupid 2", which opens the record with a few 'To business!' drum cracks, features some Edward Lear-style nonsense rhymes (Cupid with a big nose / Knows which way the wind blows / Knows how my garden grows etc.).  The woozy, innocent groove of "Dear Air" is utterly beguiling.  Even the way it peters out leaving the tambourine shaking like a rattlesnake's tail is just brilliant.  If only I still traded mixtapes - it would've killed in that context.  Nearly a year after I bought it, there's not a second of "Blip" that I don't adore and look forward to hearing. That doesn't happen all too often and it feels good to have finally said so here.

(samples from the whole lp can be heard at allmusic)

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